The 2019Vissla Sydney Surf Pro and Sydney Women's Pro pres. by Sisstrevolution continued today with Manly Beach providing small, but clean surf for a huge international field of competitors. The day saw the completion of Men's Round 1 along with Women's Round 2, setting the stage for the event top seeds to hit the water in the coming days.
Hawaiian Finn McGill has a strong connection with the beaches of New South Wales having won a WSL World Junior Championship south of Sydney only 18 months ago. McGill is now setting his sights on CT qualification and needs some more solid results in Australia to set up his season. After an early Round elimination in Newcastle, McGill is banking on a big finish at the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro to set up is 2019 QS campaign.
"The best thing about starting the year off in Australia is there are the two events back-to-back and if you have a bad result at the first one you can shift your focus straight to the next one," McGill said. "That's pretty much what has happened to me, so I'm stoked to have come down to Manly and started off with a heat win. Australia is a really special place for me so it's always good to come back -- when I fly into Sydney and see the Harbour a lot of great memories come rushing back."
Former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Mitch Crews has had a few years away from full-time competing to focus on some personal projects and business opportunities. The 2014 CT Rookie Of The Year is keen to have a good crack at the QS this year and was stoked to post some good numbers in his opening heat and progress into Round 2.
"I'm really keen to compete this year,' Crews said. "I've never lost the passion to compete but this year I want to really focus on competing well. I think that heat was a pretty good reflection of this as the waves were pretty small and average but I was pretty fired up. I've come off a really good run of solid waves at home so I didn't think I'd perform that well today so I'm stoked to make that heat and hope to continue the form throughout the week."
Reigning World Junior Champion Kirra Pinkerton (USA) kept her Australian QS momentum snowballing through her Round 1 heat at Manly. Pinkerton's busy approach proved to pay dividends in the heat as she shifted across various different sandbanks and as a result was rewarded with the win.
"The first heat is always nerve-racking," said Pinkerton. "I've been in Australia for a little while now, so I think I'm beginning to adjust more to the Australian beachbreak conditions as they're so different to California. In that heat, I originally looked at the righthanders that everyone was on, but it didn't really work for me, so I decided to get busy and paddle around a lot more and I ended up on that left which ended up working for me."
Former Championship Tour competitor Bianca Buitendag has put CT qualification on the back burner to focus more on attempting to represent her home country of South Africa at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Buitendag wants to make sure she is in a good position in all areas of competition as she looks to make history next year in Japan.
"It's a great part of our routine coming to Australia to compete every year," Buitendag said. "It's almost like a birthday I'm getting used to this annual trip to Manly. The waves aren't amazing today but there is still some good shape when they come. Qualifying for the CT is always something that I'd focus my energy on but this year for me it's more to do with the Olympics next year. It would be a massive honour and as it's the first time in history -- I'd love to be part of it."
German surfer Rachel Presti revelled in the smally junky onshore conditions for her opening exchange. The Florida based natural-footer smashed out a handful of impressive maneuvers in the heat to notch up a respectable 11.73 two-wave heat total and get the win ahead of fancied opponents Canelle Bulard, Kobie Enright and Vittoria Farmer who claimed second, third and fourth.
"There's always a huge relief to get through the first heat," said Presti. "Wave choice was so key out there as the scores and scoring potential was so low. It's a huge confidence boost to get a win in that heat, especially over competitors like the ones that were in that heat."
All eyes will be on Manly beach tomorrow as the Men's top seeds hit the water along with Eleven Times WSL World Champion Kelly Slater who will be surfing in Heat 9 of Round 2 at approximately 10:50 AM AEDT.