More tough conditions have greeted competitors on Day 2 of the Great Lakes Pro presented by Surfers Rescue 24/7 with moderate onshore winds sweeping the four-foot surf at Boomerang Beach. Conditions aside, competition was fierce as some of Australia and New Zealand's best surfers did battle at the opening Qualifying Series event of 2021.
Fresh off receiving the news that she will take a wildcard spot into the upcoming Rip Curl Classic Narrabeen Championship Tour event, Laura Enever has pulled on a WSL competitive jersey for the first time since 2018. After a few years chasing big waves around the globe, Enever's competitive edge is still sharp with the natural-footer taking out her first heat in dominating form, even eliminating CT competitor Macy Callaghan from the event.
"It's a surreal feeling to be back competing on the QS and back in the rashie," Enever said. "I'm travelling with all of the girls I used to, so it's really cool and I feel like I've picked up where I left off. I do feel a bit different this time around. I feel like I learnt a lot in my time away from competing when I was chasing big waves and now during a heat, I can think a lot clearer and just surf. It was really tough out there today, but I managed to find some decent lefts which is a strong point of mine, so it all worked out well."
The last time Sunny Coaster Sophie McCulloch completed, it was at the Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast specialty event and she managed to finish runner-up. Now, almost six months later, McCulloch is back in the jersey and looking to nab the top spot in Boomerang. Having overcome some of Australia's biggest surf stars in her last competitive appearance, Sophie is keen to regain that confidence as she begins her campaign to qualify for the 2021 Challenger Series.
"It's been tough knowing that I had to try and harness my confidence for such a long time after my final at South Stradbroke Island," McCulloch said. "That was definitely a highlight of my career and I want to build on it so I'm glad to be back competing. I definitely have a lot of appreciation for the team at WSL and Surfing NSW to have these events up and running for us after such a challenging year. Everyone is so happy to be back competing."
Event young gun Molly Picklum showed nerves of steel to clinch a heat victory on a wave she caught with only five seconds left in her Round of 32 matchup. The young Central Coaster struggled to find a wave of substance for the entire heat until she stroked into a right-hand runner on the buzzer and tagged it all the way to the beach to grab the lead and progress through the tight heat.
"Surfing heats are always more stressful when conditions are like this," Picklum said. "There's no one spot to sit or waves to look for so there's a lot of luck involved. I just paddled in to find a reform and ended up getting that last one at the end. It was fun having a heat with Kobie (Enright), we are staying together so there has been some good banter over the last couple of days. I'm stoked we both made it through that one though."
Former World Championship Tour surfer Mitch Crews showed that a year-long absence from competition had done wonders for his rail game as he carved his way into the highest wave score of the event thus far, a near-perfect 9.73 (out of a possible ten points). Crews opted to adopt a different approach than the rest of the field as he sat deep on the point and picked off a series of smaller but punchier waves that allowed for a chain of critical frontside hacks. Crews progressed through the heat alongside junior dynamo Koda Killorn who took out the runner-up position.
"When I got down here, I saw a handful of inside peaks that looked a lot more manageable than the section down the beach where the heats before me were sitting," said Crews. "That first wave I got was a bit of a doozie and really allowed me to open upon it. It was definitely a bit weird having my first 20-minute heat for over a year and I really had no idea what to feel while I was in the heat. Over the last 12 months, I'd gotten used to surfing for hours in my free surfs so it was a bit of an adjustment to try and have a surf in 20 minutes but to get a nine definitely feels good. I think it helps to know where the level is and what the judges are looking for."
One of the last heats of the day saw another former CT competitor and high seed Soli Bailey take a convincing win with only two waves caught to post a two-wave combination of 15.07. Bailey looked cool, calm and collected in one of his first heats in almost a year, even after he lost his board to submerged rocks on his way out to surf.
"I got pushed down by a set wave on my way out and my leash got caught around some rocks," Bailey said. "I thought it would slip off but it was really stuck so I had to take my leash off and leave my board. I got swept down the beach and eventually got in to grab a new board and only just got back out for the start of my heat. I got two good waves and that was enough so I'm happy with that. I'm just stoked to be back competing in a WSL event -- this is what we love to do and this is the level we need to be at if we want to qualify so I'm glad to be back doing this."
Be sure to tune in tomorrow when the LIVE broadcast starts at 7:30 a.m. AEDT at www.worldsurfleague.com and on the free WSL App.