Professional surfing is about to make a return to Australia with the Tweed Coast Pro green-lit for this coming Sunday and Monday (local time), and it's going to kick off with a serious bang.
Take a look at the tentative heat draw for the event at Cabarita, and you'll see exactly what we mean:
Tweed Coast Pro Women's Round 1 Matchups:
Heat 1: Isabella Nichols, Macy Callaghan, Philippa Anderson
Heat 2: Stephanie Gilmore, Zahli Kelly, Tweed Coast Wildcard (TBC)
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons, Tyler Wright, Molly Picklum
Heat 4: Nikki van Dijk, Keely Andrew, Holly Wawn
Tweed Coast Pro Men's Round 1 Matchups:
Heat 1: Wade Carmichael, Adrian Buchan, Conor O'Leary
Heat 2: Owen Wright, Ethan Ewing, Tweed Coast Wildcard (TBC)
Heat 3: Julian Wilson, Jack Robinson, Mikey Wright
Heat 4: Ryan Callinan, Mathew McGilivray, Morgan Cibilic
Conditions for Sunday are showing 4-6 foot faces -- head high to well overhead -- thanks to an ESE tradewind swell with light to moderate SE winds.
Monday is holding in the 4-5 foot range with a cleaner and more Easterly angled swell, as well as improved offshore to light, variable winds -- setting things up for a great finals day.
This is going to pit two of the most accomplished Championship Tour stalwarts (one a two-time World Champion) -- at the peak of their abilities -- against one of the most promising up and coming talents in the next generation of Australian surf stars, in Molly Picklum.
Tyler Wright has been surfing incredibly strong in all the free-surf clips from a winter of epic waves on Australia's East Coast, and the Tweed Coast Pro will see her looking to continue a triumphant return to competition after an 18-month break, which ended late last year when she put on a masterclass in Maui, and then made it to the finals of the Sydney Surf Pro Challenger Series event in March of this year.
Then there's the fact that a lucky wildcard surfer (as yet to be determined) is going to surf against seven-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore, as she makes her 2020 competitive debut. The last time we saw Steph in a jersey, she took out the penultimate event of the year, the lululemon Maui Pro.
Over in the men's draw, three of the most exciting surfers in the world are going to surf against each other in heat three. Julian Wilson is a perennial title contender, Mikey Wright is one of the most explosive, entertaining surfers in the game today, and phenomenon Jack Robinson -- who needs little introduction -- is among the greatest talents of a generation.
There's little doubt that in 2020, Robinson was going to the CT Rookie to watch. It's been a while since someone with such a well documented talent had qualified for the World Tour, with such a heavy weight of expecation on their shoulders -- especially after sealing the deal with a performance at Sunset Beach which will go down in history.
While the 2020 Tour was derailed by Covid -- as with almost everything else -- Robinson will be a fan favorite. It will be especially interesting to see how his small-to-medium wave game is looking now, after he unveiled a whole new gear in small beach break surf at Manly, earlier this year before the Tour was put on hold.
As for Mikey Wright, 2020 was set to be the year that he surfed off against fellow injury wildcard hopeful Leonardo Fioravanti in a best-of-three events decider for a full-time spot on the 2002 CT. There's little doubt he'll be keen to come out swinging, and remind fans of what he's made of.
These are just a few of the exciting match-ups we can look forward to at the Tweed Coast Pro and the Australian Gran Slam in general -- the return of professional surfing to Australia in 2020 is going to be huge!