Australian Nikki Van Dijk has taken out the 2018 Port Stephens Toyota Pro Qualifying Series 6000 event in clean waves at Birubi Beach. It was an exciting day of competiton as the race for spots on the 2019 Championship Tour almost reached its climax.
In the final, Championship Tour competitor Van Dijk came up against young Australian qualification hopeful Macy Callaghan. Nikki was the surfer to beat all week, building momentum through every heat of every round and the final was no exception. Callaghan had the jump on the more experienced Van Dijk, posting a solid 7.17 on her first ride. She then backed it up for a heat total of 13.34 leaving Van Dijk chasing a couple of good waves. With less than 10 minutes left Van Dijk found the scores she needed, taking her second QS6,000 win for the season with a two wave total of 14.56.
"This feels really incredible," Van Dijk said. "I started the year off with a win at the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro and then finished one of here - which is awesome. Two wins in Australia is super special. It's been such a great week surfing against all of these girls, I was pushed so much in every heat. It is a really good warmup before I head to Maui for the final CT event of the year - it could be just the confidence booster I need.
Van Dijk is currently sitting in 10th spot on the Championship Tour Jeep Leaderboard, taking the last qualifying spot for 2019. An early round loss at that event could push her outside of re-qualification however today's result keeps her inside qualification on the QS meaning she is guaranteed to return to the CT in 2019.
"Knowing I'm safe on the CT next year is so huge. It was such a reality check for me as every heat I had was against someone who was looking to qualify or re-qualify, but I knew I did too so it made it really intense. Knowing I'm safe now means I can head to Maui and just try to enjoy it and hope that the reduction in pressure will allow me to surf my best."
At this event last year, 17-year-old Macy Callaghan missed the cut for the CT by one heat. A more relaxed, older and experienced Callaghan came back this year and knew the best way to give herself a shot at qualification was to win this event at Birubi. She did make the final and after coming second, she thought her chances of qualification had once again been dashed. Fortunately for her, the final appearance was enough to put her into 6th place on the QS rankings and put her onto the Women's WSL Championship Tour as a fulltime competitor in 2019.
"Finishing second never felt so good," Callaghan said. "I came second as a wildcard in France on the CT recently, but I think this one feels even better than that. My friends and family on the beach knew that I was on (next year's CT) but didn't tell me so it was such a surprise when I came in. I'm stoked with how I performed this week and had such a fun time in here in Port Stephens, so to leave knowing I'm on the CT next year makes it a dream come true. I've wanted to be on the CT since I was a little girl and I know it's where I'm meant to be."
Joining Macy Callaghan on the 2019 WSL World Championship Tour, is young Costa Rican competitor Brisa Hennessy. Hennessy's blistering run through the Port Stephens Toyota Pro saw her take down current CT surfer Sage Erickson and American dynamo Kirra Pinkerton on her way to finish in the Semifinals where she was beaten by eventual winner Van Dijk. The result saw Hennessy finish seventh on the 2018 QS rankings and as a result, took the final qualification position.
"No words can describe how I feel - this is a dream come true," Hennessy said. "There are so many people I need to thank and that have helped me along the way I just don't know where to start. This is my best result all year so I when I was eliminated in the Semifinals it was kind of bittersweet as I wasn't sure I had done enough to qualify. My goal at this event was to solidify myself on the CT and when I was beaten by Nikki and qualified at the same time it made it all good. It was great to surf against Nikki today -- I'm just over the moon."
While Callaghan and Hennessy celebrated their successful qualification onto the 2019 Championship Tour, it left string of heartbroken hopefuls who just missed the cut. Newcastle's Philippa Anderson along with Japan's Mahina Maeda and Current CT competitors Sage Erickson and Paige Hareb all lost out in the Quarterfinals and all of them with the exception of Hareb missed the QS cutoff and will not be surfing on the CT in 2019.