As the surfers competing in Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast made their way across the channel to South Stradbroke Island on jetskis and boats early this morning, they were greeted by crunching four-to six-foot barrels pummeling the inside bank.
If it wasn't obvious from their first glance at the lineup, it was soon clear that today would be all about finding the diamonds in the rough at one of Australia's premier best beachbreaks. And while it took some hunting, throughout the day, surfers and fans alike enjoyed the best conditions the WSL Countdown has seen thus far. Featuring spitting tubes, shifting peaks, broken boards and jerseys being ripped clean off competitors backs in the powerful surf, it was the kind of competition everyone's been waiting for.
Western Australia's Jack Robinson, who will make his Championship Tour debut later this year, was the man with the hot hand as he dialed into the day's best waves. Saving the best for last, his Quarterfinal performance was pure brilliance -- despite the northerly winds coming up and the tide running out.
As the afternoon wore on the sea became considerable more unruly, but Robinson proved that he's more than CT ready with an exceptional barrel-to-air combo that earned a 9.67. It was the highest single-wave score of the day. And his back-up ride, an 8.67, afforded him with very comfortable win over Owen Wright. He'd exit the water with the highest two-wave total of the day.
"That first one I got the big double-up and the board felt too small and I thought, ‘I'm actually dropping in on a bomb here.' Then the next one Owen was just a bit far out and I snuck underneath. You've just got to be quick to pounce on them out there," Robinson recounted with a smile.
There were definitely gems to be found, especially around the mid-morning high tide. Liam O'Brien posted the first excellent-range score of the day with an 8.67 in his Opening Round heat for a well-threaded barrel. It was thick, it was critical and O'Brien used his local knowledge to make the most of it. O'Brien, along with Mitch Crews, was rewarded for his efforts when his jersey was ripped off in the spin cycle and had the pleasure of finishing his heat in boardshorts only
Meanwhile, Robinson, a surfer who seems to have a preternatural ability to summon waves was also a standout in the Opening Round with a nice tube in the first few seconds for a 7.17. He then backed it up with a 7.07 to book his spot in the Quarters.
Wildcard Chris Bennetts was another standout in the Opening Round as he comboed two of the best surfers in Australia. Applying years of local knowledge to beat future Olympian Owen Wright and Stuart Kennedy with a solid 15.74 combined heat total, his friends at the local boardriders club were over the moon.
"If we ran that heat ten more times they'd probably beat me every time," Bennets said, downplaying his clinical, confident performance.
For the women, Macy Callaghan](/athletes/6948/macy-callaghan) was an upset machine. Turning the tables on Stephanie Gilmore, she knocked out the seven-time World Champ in the Quarters after Gilmore was only able to muster a total heat score of a 1.50.
And earlier in the day, Callaghan also handed two-time World Champion Tyler Wright her walking papers. With nine World Titles between Wright and Gilmore, Callaghan asserted herself as a strong contender to take out this event.
"It's challenging and that's what we're here for. It's a French beachbreak-cross-Portugal vibe out there," said Wright in her post-heat interview. "There's a lot of prep that goes into the 2021 tour, and this is part of that."
Further demonstrating how heavy and difficult the wave could be, Piper Harrison broke two boards in Heat 3 of the Women's Opening Round and needed to borrow a fresh craft from her brother, Piper. And Soli Bailey hucked a monster air, coming unstuck on the landing but getting the fans hyped in the process.
When competition resumes look for the Men to power through the last two heats of the Quarterfinals, and by day's end we should be crowning our winners. Stay tuned from 7am AEST.