- WSL / Tom Bennett

The 2021 Port Stephens Pro presented by Mad Mex - stop two on the Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series - will see the return of professional surfing in Port Stephens and Birubi Beach. The elite three-day World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 1000 rated event will form the second of four stops on the Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series and will take place in Port Stephens from the 21 February - 23 February 2021.

The four-event series will see three QS1000 rated events (Maroubra, Great Lakes and Port Stephens) and one men's and women's QS3000 (Central Coast).

In 2020, the WSL revealed a new format for 2021, which included creating distinct seasons between the QS (the regionalised development tier), the Challenger Series (the global battleground for Championship Tour qualification) and the Championship Tour (the world's best surfers competing for the World Title).

The new tour structure will 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 on 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.

The QS will run from January through to July 2021 and determine who has qualified for the CS, which will run from August through to December 2021. Each region will have an allocation of surfers that can qualify for the CS through their regional tour. Athletes will be able to roll over points from 2020 QS events into the current season. Australia/Oceania will receive an allocation of ten men's and eight women's spots onto the Challenger Series based on the regional QS rankings.

Surfing NSW CEO Luke Madden believes the Port Stephens area is perfectly suited for an event of this calibre.

"Over the years we have been extremely spoilt with awesome wave quality in the Port Stephens region and it's an absolute joy to return to the area after a turbulent year in 2020. I would like to thank the local surfing contingent and the other event stakeholders for welcoming us back in 2021."

Port Stephens Council Mayor Ryan Palmer is elated to see a professional event return to the region.

"It's fantastic to see surfing competitions return to Port Stephens - it's a very welcome boost after a challenging year for our community and local businesses in 2020. Our region has shared a healthy relationship with Surfing NSW over the years and we can't wait to work with them again when the Port Stephens Pro returns in 2021."

WSL APAC Tour Manager Will Hayden-Smith echoed Palmer's sentiments.

"Port Stephens and in particular Birubi Beach has become a staple on the WSL Qualifying Series over the last five years and we're really excited to be returning in 2021," said Hayden-Smith. "The area has plenty of options for all conditions making it ideal for a surfing event and our competitors love making the trip to the region each year. WSL would like to thank the Port Stephens Council and Surfing NSW for their continued support of the QS."

The local Bay Area Boardriders wildcard is Jasmine Sampson.

The Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series was developed for Australian and International surfers to gain ranking points and prize money on the WSL Qualifying Series. The series also creates a NSW coastal road trip for all to explore the variety of waves, visit local communities and enjoy NSW surfing culture.

The Port Stephens Pro pres. by Mad Mex, stop 2 on the 2021 Australian Qualifying Series leg will run from February 21 to 23. Head to www.worldsurfleague.com or the free WSL App for more information and to watch the event LIVE.

2021 Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series Event Schedule Event 1: Great Lakes Pro, Boomerang Beach, Tuesday 16 - Friday 19 February 2021. Event 2: Port Stephens Pro, Birubi Beach, Sunday 21 - Tuesday 23 February 2021. Event 3: Mad Mex Maroubra Pro, Maroubra Beach, Friday 26 - Sunday 28 February 2021. Event 4: Vissla Central Coast Pro, Avoca Beach, Tuesday 2 - Sunday 7 March 2021.

The 2021 Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series will be proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW. The series will also be proudly supported by Vissla, Randwick City Council, Central Coast Council, Mid Coast Council, Port Stephens Council, Mad Mex, Sisstrevolution, Middle Rock Holiday Park, Moby's Beachside Retreat, Avoca Beach Hotel, WSL and Surfing NSW.

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