The Qualifying Series is about to restart, so surfers who've had an extended off-season preparing for their shot at the Championship Tour are about to suit up for action. The Australian QS will kick off with a whistle-stop road-trip through some of the East Coast of Australia's best waves.
There are four QS events coming up in New South Wales in the near future, and if you were a professional surfer inclined to link them all together, they're beacons on a well-worn path down the Pacific Highway that takes in some quintessential Australian beachies, all with a unique flavor.
Considering there has not been a Qualifying Series event in almost a year, some of Australia's best surfers have had months to obsessively prepare and think about how to come out of the gates swinging. Expect some statement-making performances in the coming weeks.
Boomerang Beach: February 16-19
First stop is the QS 1,000 Great Lakes Pro at Boomerang Beach. This is widely considered to be one of the best beach-breaks on the East Coast of Australia, with a south-easterly aspect which sucks in every bit of the south or easterly swell on offer. It's one of those beaches your rarely see flat, and is known for having good sand banks which offer a-frame peaks or longer waves in the protected corners.
That's care of the large headlands at either and of the beach -- the northern end provides protection from the north-east wind, while the southern headland is cleaner in a southerly. This -- along with Blueys Beach to the south and Elizabeth Beach to the north provides one of the most versatile and consistent little surf zones in the country.
The event runs between February 16-19., and is the first under a revised, regional format which provide a more streamlined and affordable career pathway for WSL athletes by allowing up-and-coming surfers to develop closer to home without financially overleveraging themselves.
Athletes will compete in their regional QS tour in hopes of qualifying for the Challenger Series (CS), and ultimately the Championship Tour, which will reduce the economic pressure on surfers and their sponsors, as well as provide increased opportunities to celebrate local stars.
Birubi Beach: February 21-23
Birubi Beach has a lot of history, with this location in previous years serving as the final stop on the women's Qualifying Series -- the spot where some of the biggest stars in surfing have secured their maiden berth on the Championship Tour. This year, the Port Stephens Pro presented by Mad Mex is a combined men's and women's QS 1,000, at a beach with a backdrop like no other -- the sand dunes at Birbui looks as though the Sahara had run right into the ocean.
Birubi is less than two hour's drive from Boomerang. Competitors will jump in their cars and head south, down the coast in time for the event which runs between February 21-23. Birubi sits at the end of a long, exposed stretch of sand which is more than 16 miles long. The Birubi Point headland helps structure the banks, and on its day the break is a big, powerful peak which offers rights and lefts, and requires some smooth, powerful surfing.
Maroubra Beach: February 26-28
The third stop on the Qualifying Series' journey down the East Coast is Maroubra, an iconoclastic beach in Australia's biggest city, nestled between the glitz of Bondi and the industry of Port Botany and the international airport, and it retains much of its working-class surfing culture. It's been a proving ground for many, and known as one of the more powerful, intense beach break lineups in Australia. The Mad Mex Maroubra Pro runs between February 26-28. Maroubra has a long professional surfing history -- in 2006 Kelly Slater won the Snickers Australian Open at Maroubra in front of a beach crowded with fans. Maroubra's impact on New South Wales' surfing culture is almost unmatched, with a history of producing some of Australian surfing's most colorful characters.
Avoca: March 2-7
Avoca has produced an outsized number of Championship Tour stars. Adrian Buchan, Wade Carmichael Macy Callaghan and Matt Wilkinson are all from this beach on New South Wales' Central Coast. And when the Sisstrevolution Central Coast Pro and Vissla Central Coast Pro run between March 2-7, it is set to host a large portion of Australia's Championship Tour contingent: Stephanie Gilmore, Ryan Callinan, Macy Callaghan, Isabella Nichols and Sally Fitzgibbons have all entered this QS 3,000, with more big named expected to enter shortly. This gives some up-and-coming talent the chance to compete against some of the best in the world, and means this event is being treated as a warm-up for the upcoming Australian leg of the Championship Tour which begins at Merewether Beach in Newcastle on April 1.. Avoca is predominantly a beach break, but there is a right-hand point at its southern end which could start working if it's big enough.