Molly Picklumand Reef Heazlewood have taken victory at the Great Lakes Pro presented by Surfers Rescue 24/7, the opening event of the 2021 World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS). The pair were the surfers to beat, each posting the highest scores of the event on Finals Day to clinch their maiden WSL QS victories in solid but junky, four-to-five foot peaks at Tuncurry Breakwall.
Heazlewood has completed a perfect comeback to competition with his first-ever WSL QS win at the Great Lakes Pro. After a 2020 season hampered by event cancellations and a shoulder injury, he started 2021 more determined than ever and it showed as he posted the three highest heat totals of the event on his way to the Final. In the Final, Reef came up against North Narrabeen's Jordan Lawler and the pair didn't disappoint, going wave for wave until the last siren with Heazlewood taking the victory.
"It's been a long road back to this point after injury and Covid, so to start the year with this win feels incredible. Hopefully, it sets up the rest of the year," said Heazlewood. "I think the conditions really played into my favour and I was looking at these lefts peeling through before the start of each heat and I just wanted to go out there and surf like I was making a video part. It was awesome."
Picklum has been a massive blip on the surfing worlds radar for a while now but today she solidified herself as the one to watch as she claimed her first-ever WSL QS1,000 event win. The 18-year-old natural footer saved her best performance till last, posting the highest heat total of the event in the Final against Sophie McCulloch. Picklum's 15.00 point total came from a series of massively committed backside turns.
"This feels amazing and something I'll remember forever," said Picklum. "I've been dreaming of taking out a QS event since finishing runner-up in the Maroubra QS back in 2018 and to win this feels like I've achieved a personal goal. I've been staying here with my coach Micro (Glenn Hall) and working really hard on my strategies and heat game plan while I've been here and it really helped to have him here alongside me. I can't wait for the rest of the NSW Pro Surf Series over the coming weeks."
Lawler was destined to end up in the Final with Heazlewood with the chunky beach-breaks suiting his style perfectly offering up huge sections for the goofy-foot to annihilate and air off. Although Lawler was unable to claim his third major QS win, he heads to the Port Stephens Pro in second on the rankings and in a good spot for Challenger Series qualification.
"It would have been good to win, but second is always nice. I want to treat this year like a marathon, not a sprint, so I'll take it for sure," said Lawler. "It was tricky out there. Sometimes you'd get really lucky and get a heap of gems but in the Final it felt like I was getting sets on the head. I just want to give this year my best shot and keep getting consistent results and do my best in this Australian leg."
In the Final, Picklum came up against McCulloch who was on fire all week, posting solid scores in every heat she surfed. However, McCulloch was unable to continue that rhythm as she took second place overall, she walks away from the first event of 2021 with an impressive start to the season.
"I'm pretty happy that I made the Final, especially because I don't think I gave it my best," said McCulloch. "That was a really fun final against Molly and she really drove me to give it everything and go for it. There was a lot that tested you at this event as you often didn't know where we'd be running because of the conditions and then the bigger waves, brutal end sections and the weather really could leave you feeling quite fatigued."
Be sure to tune in next week as the Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series as part of the WSL Qualifying Series heads south for the Port Stephens Pro QS1,000 which will run from February 21 - 23.