NEWCASTLE, New South Wales, Australia (Saturday, February 6, 2021) - With the World Surf League's (WSL) scheduled return to Australia for the next leg of the Championship Tour (CT), the WSL has confirmed its approval from the New South Wales government to land a chartered flight and quarantine in Sydney. The WSL also announced Newcastle in NSW, Australia, as the fourth event of the Australian leg that will kick off the leg on April 1. The WSL will continue to work with the state governments to update the dates of the other three Australian leg events, working in line with the continually-changing state border closures due to COVID-19.

Day 1 of Newcastle Surfest Pro pres. by Burton Automotive An Iconic Merewether line up. - WSL / Thomas Bennett

The WSL is strictly adhering to the government process to enter Australia and has worked closely with the New South Wales Government to come to an agreement that will see all international competitors board a flight in Los Angeles that will land in Sydney. Once in Australia, all travelling athletes and support staff will undergo the mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine and must receive a medical clearance from public health officials before entering the general community and preparing for competition at Newcastle.

The WSL will implement a robust and thorough COVID-19 health and safety plan for each event during the Australian leg of the CT in accordance with federal and state guidance. The WSL's health and safety plan includes physical distancing measures, temperature checks, enhanced high-touch cleaning at the event sites, contact tracing procedures, sanitiser stations throughout the event site, and minimal personnel on-site.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro at Newcastle Pro Announcement NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro at Newcastle Pro Announcement with Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, WSL's Andrew Stark and surfers Ryan Cllinan, Jackson Baker and Philippa anderson. - WSL / Jake White

With over 35 years of professional surfing history, Merewether Beach in Newcastle is the perfect location to launch the CT Australian leg in 2021. The beach break peaks and right-hand reef of Merewether is responsible for unearthing surfing legends such as Mark Richards, Luke Egan, Matt Hoy and Ryan Callinan to name a few. The biggest names in surfing have taken event wins in Newcastle including current CT competitors Kelly Slater, Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Julian Wilson, Yago Dora, Malia Manuel, Bronte Macaulay and Johanne Defay.

"WSL is excited to be commencing the Australian leg of the CT at the world-class break in Newcastle," said WSL APAC General Manager, Andrew Stark. "We sincerely thank the NSW Government for all of their support in not only holding a CT event but for also agreeing to land our flight and accommodating our quarantining international competitors. We're also extremely thankful for the support of the City of Newcastle to enable the event to proceed and we look forward to working with the local community in the delivery of the event."

The 2021 Newcastle Pro will not only be the first time world title points have been on offer at the location since 1991 but also the first combined male-and-female CT event to be held in NSW since the Coke Classic at Manly in 1999.

"The NSW government and World Surf League worked together to ensure that this competition went ahead," said NSW Deputy Premier, John Barilaro. "Sun, surf and sand are a way of life in our regional coastal towns and we're doing everything we can to ensure our coastal communities can reap the recreational, tourism and economic benefits that surfing provides."

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro at Newcastle Pro Announcement NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro at Newcastle Pro Announcement. - WSL / Jake White

"This is a huge opportunity to promote Newcastle, its world-class waves and the region's natural assets and visitor attractions to tens of millions of avid surfers and potential holidaymakers around the globe," said NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment and Tourism, Stuart Ayres. "The profile of the WSL Championship Tour will undoubtedly put Newcastle front of mind for many fans and start the all-important ‘dreaming' phase of planning a holiday for when we can welcome international visitors again."

Merewether local and current World No. 9 Ryan Callinan will be looking to take home a win at his home beach for this one-off CT event in Newcastle. If he does, it will be the first time a Novocastrian male has won a major event on home soil in the 36 year history of Surfest, something that would be much to the delight of Surfest co-founder and local legend Warren Smith who will be heavily involved with his team in the operation of the upcoming CT.

"Having grown up in Newcastle it's always been an amazing experience competing in the annual QS event in front of a home crowd," Callinan said. "Every year we get some of the best surfers coming to Newcastle and for this year to be a championship tour event will make it that much more exciting. Not just for myself but the whole surfing and wider community. I think everyone will really embrace this and love to see the best surfing in the world go down in our hometown. I feel I can speak for all the competitors that we are so excited to get the CT underway in a safe way and I couldn't be prouder to see it get underway in my hometown."

Ryan Callinan. on Day 7 of Newcastle Surfest Pro pres. by Burton Automotive Ryan Callinan is a local favourite at his home beach of Merewether. - WSL / Thomas Bennett

"This is such an amazing opportunity for the city of Newcastle," Warren Smith said. "We have a long history of hosting incredible surfing events in this town and to open the Australian CT leg in 2021 at Merewether is an incredible acknowledgment of that. I've been involved in surfing events in Newcastle for over 35 years but this is definitely one of the most exciting. I'm over the moon to be involved in this and can't wait to deliver a covid safe event for our community."

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said it's been wonderful to work collaboratively with the NSW Government, Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres and the great team at Destination NSW in attracting the premier international world surfing league event back to NSW and Newcastle.

"The WSL event will be fantastic, not only for the region's sports lovers but for its potential flow-on effects for our visitor economy during the event and through future tourism," Cr Nelmes said. "Newcastle has a long and proud history of supporting top-level international surfing contests and has become a destination of choice for major sporting events, including Surfest, the recent SAANZAR Rugby Championship and Supercars Newcastle 500. We look forward to welcoming athletes and surfing fans from across Australia to Newcastle for this COVID Safe event in April.``  

WSL will be working closely with the Merewether Surfboard Club to incorporate the local surfing community into the event where possible. This will be most significantly through the club being awarded wildcard spots for members Philippa Anderson and Jackson Baker.

"Merewether Surfboard Club is excited by the news that the WSL will be bringing a CT event to our local break," said Craig Long, Merewether Surfboard Club President. "We are a club with a long proud history and look forward to watching our members competing on the world stage at home. Merewether is a world-class wave so with a bit of luck it will turn on and showcase the world's best surfers. We look forward to working with the WSL to make this a memorable CT event."

Philippa Anderson on Day 3 of Newcastle Surfest Pro pres. by Burton Automotive Philippa Anderson will be taking the local wildcard in the women's event. - WSL / Thomas Bennett

The WSL is currently working with Australia's state governments to finalize the final three Australian CT events and will release the updated schedule as soon as possible. The Australian CT events will run based on state border closures, strictly adhering to federal and state government guidelines and restrictions.

All tour stops and dates subject to change due to applicable COVID-19 related restrictions, including global travel restrictions.

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