What's it going to take to win at Merewether Beach when the Championship Tour rolls into town? In a word, versatility. It's a wave which could go from lined-up reef to windswept beachbreak in the blink of an eye.
"Merewether Beach has a lot of faces, it has a very big variety of what it can break like," says Championship Tour surfer and Newcastle local Ryan Callinan.
Callinan knows the wave as well as anyone. He grew up surfing there and has seen it on its day, when it's a legitimately world-class break. But those days don't roll around all the time, and while it's ultra-consistent, there's every chance it could throw up some challenging conditions for a least some of the event window.
"I think [the winner] is going to be someone who is really adaptable, they're going to have to be good in all kinds of conditions," Callinan says. "It changes a lot, it's got a lot of faces."
One of the best things about Merewether is the variety on offer. If the swell is smaller it's a fun beach break, but if there's more energy -- which there very well may be given the Newcastle Pro kicks off on April 1 during the prime autumn swell window -- it turns into a reef/point combo.
"Up and down the beach, as people would have seen through Surfest (the longtime QS event at Merewether) the beachbreaks up the beach get really fun," says Callinan.
"But Merewether Beach, kind of off the rocks and the point-style wave we have ... if it was a nice size south swell in the four- to six-foot range I think would be the most ideal conditions for April first, when we kick things off.
"It's got a good rock shelf out the back and can break quite sucky and hollow on a good day, and then it runs quite nicely for a few more turns after that. And if it's a bit smaller, there's an inside rock shelf that kind of breaks when it's two to three foot and is really fun and ripable."
Newcastle is a surf-mad city with a long history in professional surfing. It's home to four-time World Champion Mark Richards, and a win at Merewether has proceeded the Title campaigns of the likes of Adriano de Souza, Joel Parkinson, Mark Occhilupo, Kelly Slater, Tom Carroll, Barton Lynch, Damien Hardman and Tom Curren.
Another surfer with a long history of success at Merewether Beach is World No.3 Sally Fitzgibbons, who has won there three times. Fitzgibbons says a big part of doing well there is getting swept up in the excitement and legacy of surfing in Newcastle.
"First thing you have to get down in order to do well at Newcastle is to embrace the place. I just love going to Newy, I really enjoy what the surf community is, the history, it's iconic, the surfers who have come out of there ... just learning a bit about the place you're going to always holds you in good stead," Fitzgibbons says.
"When you're interacting with the community or the local surfers in the lineup it's just really cool to have a gauge on what they're all about and what they're story is, you kinda get that good mana going, that good energy," Fitzgibbons said.
Once that's taken care of, you're well placed to enjoy the waves on offer.
"It brings out the best in all the world's best surfers, it could be lefts, rights, progression or good tubes on its day. When you add all that in the melting pot it sounds pretty exciting to me."