The final eight surfers have been decided at the Port Stephens Toyota NSW Pro Women's QS 6,000 event at Birubi Beach. With important qualifying points up for grabs, Day 3 saw some surfers move closer to achieving their goals while others had their dreams crushed as Birubi point dished up clean, 2-to-3 foot waves.
Kiwi competitor Paige Hareb has been working hard for three years to return to the elite Championship Tour where she spent six years campaigning for a World Title. Hareb is in 9th position on the QS, with things going her way by winning through to the Quarters, in which she's assured an equal 5th or better and an minimum of 2,650 QS points.
"I've never been to this place but I am super impressed," Hareb said. "We have had awesome waves this event so having a good result here is great. I have been working for a few years now to get back onto the CT and I'm hoping this is the year."
Sitting at 10th on the QS rankings is current World Junior Champion Macy Callaghan. Callaghan will need a solid result here at Birubi if she is to qualify. On Day 3 the 17-year-old natural footer continued to give herself every chance by moving into the Quarterfinals. She posted a 13.33 heat total to win in Round Six over Hawaii's Zoe McDougall.
"I'm more focused on this event and trying to win it than anything else," Callaghan said. "The whole qualification thing is just a bonus. That was a tough heat with the building swell and low tide so it was nice to find one excellent ride. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and just getting out there."
Philippa Anderson from Newcastle has been aiming for the Championship Tour for six years now and after a solid run throughout the season, 2017 may have been her closest shot at it. Needing a solid result at the last event of the year, Anderson was on track until she came up against underdog Teresa Bonvalot who had other ideas.
Bonvalot is not in contention for the CT but is keen on getting experience against the best, and that is what she will get when she moves through to the Quarterfinals. The goofyfooter won the heat with a total of 14.16 (out of a possible 20), eliminating Anderson from the event and from CT contention.
"Although I don't have a chance of qualifying this season, I'm still keen to go far in this event," Bonvalot said. "I know it is a really important event for girls wanting to qualify including Philippa and I feel bad when I see them lose but at the same time, I am here to win and that's just how it goes in surfing. I'm feeling really good and I am so happy with how I've been surfing so I can't wait for tomorrow."
Currently sitting at 9th on the CT rankings and 8th on the QS, Johanne Defay has traveled to Port Stephens as a qualification safety precaution. The travel has paid off, with Defay locking in a spot in the Quarterfinals with a solid win over Brisa Hennessy. Defay, who has already won a QS 6,000 this year in Newcastle, put Hennessy in a combination situation (needing two scores) with her solid heat total of 16.76.
"The waves have just been getting better and better today," Defay said. "It was nice to have the surf clean up and grow bigger. I'm not guaranteed to re-qualify on the CT so I came here to gain some points. The waves have been great as well so it has been well worth the trip so far."
In her first ever year on the QS, Tahitian Vahine Fierro is not in the hunt for qualification, but is possibly looking for a higher seeding for the 2018 QS season. With a spot in the Quarterfinals locked in, the 17-year-old is guaranteed the best result of her career.
"I've surfed in two other events of this size but this is the best that I have done," Fierro said. "It's so nice to be here at such a beautiful beach, the waves are amazing. This is my last event of the year so I'm really excited to kick off next year as my confidence has had such a boost."