- WSL / Thomas Bennett

With a 35-year history hosting World Champs and local legends, there is no venue more deserving of a CT than the surf-mad city of Newy.

"I couldn't think of an event, or a town, that deserves a CT more than Newcastle," Mick Fanning told the WSL after the announcement that the Newcastle Pro will kick off the Australian leg. "It was always one of my favorite stops on tour. Great waves, great people and you always knew that the whole surf community in Newy were backing you 100 percent."

Fanning is a three-time winner of the coveted MR Trophy -- awarded to each of the Newcastle event winners -- a piece of hardware named after Newcastle's most famous surfer, four-time World Champion Mark Richards.

Along with Sally Fitzgibbons, Fanning has won the most events in the city, but is just one name on an incredible list of winners that date back to 1985.

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World Champions and Newcastle have made a connection over the years, as evidenced by event winners the likes of Adriano de Souza, Joel Parkinson, Mark Occhilupo, Kelly Slater, Tom Carroll, Barton Lynch, Damien Hardman and Tom Curren.

And Wendy Botha, Frieda Zamba, Pam Burridge, and Stephanie Gilmore are all previous winners. You'll no doubt have already registered that these World Champions are across generations, which firmly anchors Newcastle as an iconic venue in competitive surfing history.

The inaugural event ran in 1985 when the city founders were keen to rid the former steel making town of its industrial image and showcase its beautiful beaches. Called the BHP Steel International it was at the time the richest professional surfing event in the world.

Held at Newcastle Beach, the first event was won by Tom Curren and saw some of the biggest crowds ever seen for a surf competition.

Day 1 of Newcastle Surfest Pro pres. by Burton Automotive Waves turned on for the Newcastle Surfest Pro. - WSL / Thomas Bennett

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the event lost its CT status, but remained a key, and much loved, stop on the Australian QS leg. In 2007 it moved from its long-term home of Newcastle Beach and relocated three miles south to Merewether Beach.

In April, this opens up the possibility of north-easterly swells coming in from cyclonic activity in the Coral Sea. These can be sculpted into epic lefthand tubes by the sandbanks of Dixon Park. Alternatively, if a low depression sends a southerly swell up through ‘pinball alley' the oceanic area between Tasmania and New Zealand, the famed Merewether Point, with its roping righthanders, come into play.

Sally Fitzgibbons Wins the 2019 Holmes Civil Development Pro Australia Olympic Team surfer Sally Fitzgibbons celebrating a deserving win in 2019. - WSL / Thomas Bennett

It's this combination that has made Merewether an iconic wave on the East Coast of Australia. It was named an Australian National Surfing Reserve in 2009, and along with Mark Richards, was the training ground for Luke Egan, Matt Hoy, Nick Wood, and current CT surfer Ryan Callinan. Julian Wilson, the defending event champion, has recently moved there with his Newcastle-born partner.

"It's an incredible opportunity to surf your homebreak in a CT event," Callinan told the WSL. "It will mean so much to the people of Newcastle and I know that Warren Smith and the organizers will put on an incredible show."

Huge fans gather for the first BHP Steel International In 1985, huge crowds gathered for the first BHP Steel International at Newcastle Beach, an event won by Tom Curren. - WSL / Cultural Collections UON Library

Smith, a local lifeguard until his retirement in 2018, has been the contest director, sponsorship coordinator and general boss for three decades. At one stage he went so far as to re-mortgage his own home to ensure that the show went on.

It may not have always had the budget for fancy competitor's areas or a huge VIP lounge, but Smith and his trusted gang, plus the people of Newcastle, have always ensured that there is a legendary warm welcome given to all the surfers.

MR Trophy Newcastle The iconic MR Trophy awarded to Newcastle event winners was created in homage to four-time World Champion and Newcastle legend Mark Richards. - WSL / Richard Bartlett / Surfest

"We are all surfers and feel extremely lucky to be able to present a WSL event, let alone a CT," Smith said. "The main thing is we just love doing it. It is as simple as that. It has never been about money, but about having a good time and welcoming the best surfers in the world to our waves."

"This an event with real history and real prestige," concludes Fanning. "It's epic that now all the world's best surfers will be on hand to surf there. The place is going to go nuts."

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