Birubi Beach continued to deliver quality waves on Day 5 of the Port Stephens Toyota Pro as the fight for spots on the 2019 Championship Tour reached fever pitch. It was a mix bag of results as big names progressed into the Finals with others eliminated, leaving their fate in the hands of fellow competitors.
A clutch Quarterfinal result put Kiwi Paige Hareb back on the Championship Tour next year. In 2018, Hareb had already done the hard work on the Qualifying Series and came back to Birubi to solidify her spot on the Dream Tour. The powerful goofyfooter did that and more today, booking a spot in the Quarterfinals once again whilst posting the highest heat total of the event so far, a 16.86 (out of a possible 20).
"I had fun out there today," Hareb said. "Although it's small this bank suits the wave size and it's way better at high tide. Luckily all my heats have been during high tide. It felt great to post a big score like that. I've struggled to make a heat on the CT so now that I'm safe for 2019, I want to go to Maui in a good head space and try to make a couple of heats. I'm just excited that I'm back on Tour next year."
Currently sitting in 10th place on the QS rankings, Brisa Hennessy is the highest ranked non-CT surfer at Port Stephens. The young Costa Rica representative has put forward a solid case for a CT spot in 2019 as she progressed into the Quarterfinals at Birubi today with a solid heat win over Californian Kirra Pinkerton. Hennessy will take on CT star Sage Erickson in Quarterfinal 4 tomorrow.
"All the girls who can make it on the CT keep making heats so I was feeling the pressure," Hennessy said. "I have been trying to be present and focus on being in the moment and it seems to be working. Tomorrow will be a fun day, it will be exciting to see how it all plays out. I am loving my time here in Port Stephens, we always get great waves."
CT qualification hopeful Macy Callaghan barely snuck through her Round 4 heat this morning but made sure there was no questioning her performance in Round 5 as she belted her way to a 14.77 heat total. Callaghan has made it through to the final day and feels she couldn't be more prepared for the challenge ahead.
"I'm here to win this event," Callaghan said. "I feel like there is nothing more I can do to prepare as I have been preparing for this my whole life. I'm a lot more relaxed than last year and am content with what ever happens, but I feel like that will only play to my advantage come finals day. I'm really excited for tomorrow."
Local favorite Philippa Anderson has given herself every opportunity at clinching a spot on the 2019 Championship Tour, taking a spot in the Quarterfinals once again. Anderson took a narrow win over young Aussie Kobie Enright who posted her best result of the year. Anderson will have her work cut out for her on Finals Day when she comes up against event standout Nikki Van Dijk.
"That was pretty tight towards the end but I was always feeling pretty comfortable," Anderson said. "I had a mid 7-point ride so knew I was in a good position and could always improve my total. I'm really happy to be through to the Final Day, my friends and family have all been up here supporting me. They were all at Surfest in Newcastle this year where I did well so I hope they bring me more luck tomorrow."
The opening heat of Round 5 was one of the most exciting of the entire event with Hawaiian up and comer Summer Macedo taking on CT sophomore Bronte Macaulay. With Macedo sitting outside of the possibility of qualification and Macaulay attempting to hold onto a top 5 QS spot, the pressure lay squarely on the West Australian's shoulders. Macedo had Bronte on the ropes until the dying seconds of the heat as the pair went back and forth with Macaulay eventually taking the heat by a mere 0.34 of a point.
"The heat was intense," Macaulay said. "Every time I got a good wave Summer would be right behind me getting a solid score so my heart rate was extremely high for the whole heat. I knew that winning that heat would lock me into the top 5 on the QS rankings so I'm really relieved to have done it and feel like I can relax a little more heading into Finals Day and Maui."
Holly Wawn was eliminated in Round 5 meaning her hopes of qualification have been dashed for this year. CT competitor Malia Manuel has also been eliminated meaning her spot on the CT could come down to her performance at the Maui Beachwaver Pro.