ROTTNEST ISLAND, Western Australia, Australia (Saturday, May 15, 2021) - The Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona, the fifth stop on the 2021 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) and the final event of the Australian leg, is set to get underway tomorrow at Strickland Bay with the first day of the 11-day event window showing a promising forecast for wind and waves.

ROTTNEST ISLAND, AUS - MAY 15: (L-R) Two-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA), Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Jacob Willcox (AUS), Mia McCarthy (AUS) and 7x WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) at the Press Conference for the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presen Competitors at the Rip Curl Rottnest Search Press Conference. - WSL / Cait Miers

World Champions Prepare For First Event on Rottnest Island

Seven-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) is fresh off her best result of the season with a runner-up finish last week at Margaret River. Gilmore, like the majority of the 54 competitors this week, is surfing on Rottnest Island for the first time and, after 14 years on tour, is relishing the opportunity to compete in a new location. Currently sitting at World No. 3 on the rankings, Gilmore will hope to go one better when competition wraps at the Rip Curl Rottnest Search.

"This is my first time surfing here on Wadjemup," Gilmore said. "So far the waves have looked really fun and we've had a really warm and wonderful welcome so I'm happy to be here. We go to the same places every year most years, so to get a new stop like this that is so unique is really cool. I'm feeling good after a second-place finish in Margaret River and the plan is definitely to go one better this week."

Two-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) is no stranger to the one-off nature of the Rip Curl Search events having won the San Francisco event as a 17-year old back in 2011. Medina's style and form in lefthanders means he is built for the waves at Strickland Bay, even if it is his first time surfing here. Having come off his worst result of the season so far, Medina will be looking to bounce back into the event Finals if he is to hang onto his No. 1 spot on the rankings when the CT leaves Australia.

"I've won one of these Search globe trophies before and it is definitely my favorite trophy," Medina said. "I'm definitely hoping to get another one here on Rottnest. The wave so far has been really fun and a little bit challenging. I think it will be a clean slate for everyone because it is new to all of us. It's been a fun few days settling in at a new location, checking out the island and all of the Quokkas, they're so cool. This will be a really cool experience for all of the competitors, so I'm looking forward to the competition starting, hopefully, tomorrow."

Welcome to Country by Professor Lenny Collard and the Ngalak Nidja Dance Group

Rottnest has an important pre-colonial history for the Whadjuk Nyungar, a home for their spiritual ancestors. Despite this connection and its beauty, Rottnest Island has a dark past. During colonial settlement and the frontier wars of the 19th Century, Wadjemup - the Whadjuk Nyungar name for Rottnest Island - was established as a colonial prison for almost 4,000 Aboriginal men and boys from all over Western Australia between 1838 and 1904.

Upon arrival to Rottnest Island, the surfers and staff were greeted to a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony by Winthrop Professor Lenny Collard, a Whadjuk Nyungar Elder and Professor at the University of Western Australia, alongside Ingrid Cumming, and Ash Penfold and Jayden Boundry of the Ngalak Nidja Dance Group.

Today's press conference also saw the Ngalak Nidja Dance Group perform a Welcome to Country Ceremony with Ingrid Cumming, Jayden Boundry, Ash Penfold, Dylan Stack, Alana McGaw, and Marianne Mackay.

ROTTNEST ISLAND, AUS - MAY 15: (L-R) Alana McGaw, Ingrid Cumming and Marianne Mackay of the Ngalak Nidja Dance Group in the Welcome to Country Ceremony at the Press Conference for the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona on MAY 15, 2021 in Rottnes Ngalak Nidja Dance Group perform a Welcome to Country Ceremony with Ingrid Cumming, Jayden Boundry, Ash Penfold, Dylan Stack, Alana McGaw, and Marianne Mackay - WSL / Cait Miers

Local Wildcards Look to Upset Race to the WSL Rip Curl Finals

The Rip Curl Rottnest Search pres. by Corona will see a number of wildcards and injury replacements hitting the water with some of Western Australia's best up-and-coming and iconic surfing talent finding themselves in the draw for this week's event. Local trials winners Kael Walsh and Mia McCarthy will join Rip Curl Wildcard Jacob Willcox (AUS) and surfing icon Taj Burrow (AUS) in the competition, with Burrow coming in to replace the injured Adrian Buchan (AUS) at Rottnest.

Mikey Wright (AUS) will continue to take the spot of Kolohe Andino (USA), while Kelly Slater (USA) will be replaced by Liam O'Brien (AUS), who is sitting in 4th on the WSL Australia / Oceania QS Rankings. Former CT competitor Stu Kennedy (AUS) will return to the elite stage to replace John John Florence (HAW), who withdrew from the remainder of the Australian leg with a knee injury. Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN) will continue to fill in for Lakey Peterson (USA), who is recovering from a back injury.

Watch LIVE

The holding period for the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona opens on May 16 and runs through May 26. The event will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com and the free WSL app. Also, check local listings for coverage from the WSL's broadcast partners.

Although Rottnest Island will remain open for visitors while hosting the event, spectators will not be permitted at Strickland Bay as this will be a broadcast-only event to limit environmental impacts.

Rip Curl Rottnest Search Women's Seeding Round 1 Matchups:

  • Heat 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Bronte Macaulay (AUS), Macy Callaghan (AUS)
  • Heat 2: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Keely Andrew (AUS), Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN)
  • Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW), Malia Manuel (HAW), Mia McCarthy (AUS)
  • Heat 4: Caroline Marks (USA), Courtney Conlogue (USA), Brisa Hennessy (CRI)
  • Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Isabella Nichols (AUS), Sage Erickson (USA)
  • Heat 6: Tyler Wright (AUS), Johanne Defay (FRA), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)

Rip Curl Rottnest Search Men's Seeding Round 1 Matchups:

  • Heat 1: Griffin Colapinto (USA), Owen Wright (AUS), Mikey Wright (AUS)
  • Heat 2: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), Jack Robinson (AUS), Jacob Willcox (AUS)
  • Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Wade Carmichael (AUS), Stuart Kennedy (AUS)
  • Heat 4: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Ethan Ewing (AUS), Liam O'Brien (AUS)
  • Heat 5: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Adriano de Souza (BRA), Taj Burrow (AUS)
  • Heat 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Jack Freestone (AUS), Kael Walsh (AUS)
  • Heat 7: Ryan Callinan (AUS), Matthew McGillivray (ZAF), Connor O'Leary (AUS)
  • Heat 8: Conner Coffin (USA), Peterson Crisanto (BRA), Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
  • Heat 9: Frederico Morais (PRT), Jadson Andre (BRA), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
  • Heat 10: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Seth Moniz (HAW), Miguel Pupo (BRA)
  • Heat 11: Caio Ibelli (BRA), Yago Dora (BRA), Michel Bourez (FRA)
  • Heat 12: Morgan Cibilic (AUS), Julian Wilson (AUS), Deivid Silva (BRA)
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