- WSL / Matt Dunbar

The Sydney Surf Pro is the first event on the World Surf League's Challenger Series, a new level of competition geared to give top-tier athletes a battleground to compete for a spot on the Championship Tour.

The Challenger Series features events in eight premium venues, the first of which is Manly Beach, close to the heart of Australia's busiest city.

Manly is a hub for surfers and tourists alike on Australia's East Coast, given its proximity to the Central Business District and the rest of the waves on the Northern Beaches peninsula.

HIGHLIGHTS: Slater Leads The Way at Manly
0:52
Day 3 action from the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro

There's bars, restaurants and a pretty consistent range of waves, including a few lesser-know reef break slabs, just around the corner.

And this event has always been a crowd favorite, thanks to its festival feel, which this year will also include The Drop festival.

There's been a lot of big names, including the GOAT Kelly Slater, who have competed at Manly recently.

But 2020 will see the most impressive lineup in the event's history, given its elevated status and Manly Beach's potential as a test venue for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

It's an east-facing beach break which can produce good waves when the sand is right.

Manly Storm Manly Storm - WSL / Tom Bennett

Around this time of year it is positioned to pick up much of the north-east windswell which prevails throughout summer and into early Autumn on Australia's East Coast, but also some of the wind which whipped the swell up in the first place.

But it really fires on an easterly groundswell, with light westerly winds, and these will start marching in as we get further into the Southern Hemisphere Autumn and Winter.

While much of a solid south swell would pass it by, it is sheltered from the southerly winds which can blow onshore for many of the other locations on Sydney's Northern Beaches after a southerly change. These are a semi-regular weather event which provide a welcome relief from the heat at this time of year.

The best banks tend to be found on the stretch of the beach around the North Steyne Surf Life Saving club, which is where the contest is based.

There's a good chance of fun, small-ish and rip-able beach break waves, which is exactly why many of the elite surfers who are headed to Tokyo to represent their countries at the Olympic Games are treating the contest as a test run.

HIGHLIGHTS: Quarterfinalists Decided at Manly
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Day 6 action from the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro

The Olympic surfing venue, Shidashita Beach, is located just 40 miles east of Tokyo on the Chiba Prefecture's Pacific coastline, and, failing a typhoon, it's expected to serve up waves in the thigh-to-chest high range, which is what competitors have a pretty good chance of encountering in Manly.

From Manly, the Challenger Series will move to New Zealand for the Corona Piha Pro, South Africa for the Ballito Pro, the USA for the Vans US Open of Surfing, Spain for the Pantin Classic ABANCA GALICIA CLASSIC SURF PRO, Portugal fro the EDP Billabong Pro Ericeira and on to the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii for the Hawaiian Pro and Vans World Cup of Surfing.

All told, there will be 19 men's and 22 women's CT surfers in the Sydney Surf Pro heat draw, and seven World Titles represented.

While four-time World Champion Carissa Moore plans to sit out this year's CT, she will be in Manly to keep her competitive senses sharp, alongside returning two-time World Champion Tyler Wright and 2015 World Champion Adriano de Souza.

This is the where some of the world's best surfers will be looking to start their season on the right note, so keep it locked to get a taste of what's to come in 2020.

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