Surfest, the annual event at Merewether Beach in Newcastle, Australia, was flooded this year by entries from would-be competitors -- a whopping 463 surfers from 25 countries for six events that will run over the next week-plus. The premier events of the festival are the WSL Qualifying Series contests, the men's Burton Automotive Pro and the women's Grandstand Sports Clinic Women's Pro. Across those two events alone, there are 27 athletes from the elite-level Championship Tour (CT) vying to lock up the 6,000 qualifying points available.
"I still get blown away by the number of competitors from around the globe that make the trek to Newcastle," said. Surfest director Warren Smith. "To have attracted 13 of the world's very best men to the Burton Automotive Pro and 14 of the very best women surfers to the Grandstand Sports Clinic Women's Pro is a big thumbs-up for the event's status. As a truly international event drawing competitors from around the world, Surfest provides a terrific boost for local businesses and is a great way to showcase the Hunter."
When entries closed at midday on Wednesday Australian time, 212 surfers had signed on for a spot in the Burton Automotive Pro. The 14 elite Championship Tour (CT) surfers that will compete at Merewether include Aussies Matt Wilkinson and Owen Wright -- ranked No. 5 and No. 6 in the world, respectively -- along with their countrymen Adrian Buchan, Wade Carmichael and Connor O'Leary. Brazilians Willian Cardoso, Ian Gouveia, Jesse Mendes, Tomas Hermes and Michael Rodriguez will also surf at Merewether, as well CT duo Kanoa Igarashi and Keanu Asing, with Portugal's Frederico Morais and the USA's Griffin Colapinto completing the CT contingent.
The Grandstand Sports Clinic Women's Pro received 128 entrants, including 13 CT surfers from the Championship Tour. Aussie entrants include reigning world champion Tyler Wright and world number three Sally Fitzgibbons, as well as Keely Andrew, Bronte Macaulay and Nikki van Dyke. Internationals include Hawaiian trio Coco Ho, Malia Manuel, and Tatiana Weston-Webb, defending champ Joanne Defay from France, Americans Caroline Marks and Sage Erickson, plus Paige Hareb from New Zealand, and Silvana Lima, from Brazil.
The huge number of entrants into Surfest's main events has required organisers to arrange trials for February 17 and 18, just a few hundred metres north of the break at Merewether. Merewether will be hosting the Wandiyali Indigenous Classic -- Australia's biggest event for Indigenous surfers. Sixty-four men and 32 women will be battling in the wildcard trials for one spot in both the Burton Automotive Pro and the Grandstand Sports Clinic Women's Pro.
Along with the QS 6,000-level events, Surfest is hosting The James Bros Longboard Classic for men and women and the nib Pro Junior for men and women.
Surfers who have sought a start in the six WSL events at Surfest represent Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Basque Country, Brazil, Canary Islands, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Hawaii, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal, Reunion, South Africa, Spain, Uruguay and the USA.
Watch the events daily on the WSL from February 19 - 25.