The Oakeberry Tweed Coast Pro Junior has continued today with the opening two rounds of the men's Qualifying Series 5000 event kicking off in clean two-to-three foot surf at Cabarita Beach. With 5000 points on offer, the event has attracted a massive field of Australia and New Zealand's top surfers and will be deciding the region's representatives on the 2021 WSL Challenger Series to run later this year.
Day 1 saw a strong showing from the youngsters while a handful of veterans proved they still have what it takes when it comes to making heats on the Qualifying Series.
After a falling out of the draw early in the Pro Junior division, Cronulla youngster Jarvis Earle was hoping to find redemption when he took to the water in the QS5,000 event today at Cabarita, and redemption is what he found, winning his Round 2 heat with the highest single wave of the event so far. Earle's near-perfect 9.50 came from a massive full-rotation air-reverse into the flats, a hugely critical and technical aerial which saw him take a convincing heat win with a two-wave total of 14.53.
"I had a bit of a shocker in the pro junior yesterday so I was really keen to come into the QS event and smash through a few heats," Earle said. "I could see there were a few nice ramps on the left handers and thought I'd focus on them. I ended up finding a nice one with a good section and went for it -- fortunately I rode out so I'm stoked. After so much time away from competition I had a bit of a rusty start over the weekend but I feel warmed up and ready to go for the QS event. I've had a few surfs now at Cabarita so I am feeling in tune with the bank. At this point I'm happy to get some experience at this level and if I make a few heats I'll improve my seeding which would be great."
Earlier in the day, former CT stalwart Nathan Hedge came up against Jay Occhilupo, the son of one of his heroes and fellow Championship Tour competitor, 1999 World Champion Mark Occhilupo. Hedge's experience showed as the veteran progressed through the heat with a solid showing. Occhilupo on the other hand didn't find his keeper score till the last few seconds when he threw a Hail-Mary air-reverse into the flats and rode away to clinch the second progressing spot. Later in the day, Hedge was unfortunately eliminated in Round 2 along with young Occhilupo who went down in the last heat of the day.
"That was such an honour and a privilege to surf against the son of one of my great mates," Hedge said. "Occy was always someone I looked up to so surfing with Jay was so cool. It was a really special moment."
Another competitor who was looking to bounce back from an earlier than hoped for elimination in the Pro Junior event was Central Coast youngster Lennox Chell who came out of the gates charging in his opening QS heat. Chell posted a 14.06 two-wave combination to progress through the round heat. Chell displayed his technical ability going both left and right to show he can mix it on the QS just as well as on the Junior Series.
"There is definitely a difference stepping up to a QS5,000 event from the juniors," Chell said. "The later heats in the juniors are still really tough, especially yesterday -- I had a bit of a shocker -- So I'm really glad to make it through that heat and regain some confidence. I'm just excited to be here competing on the Tweed Coast. It's such a beautiful part of the world with plenty of waves. We've got plenty of swell today with some nice running rights, let's hope this carries on for the next few days."
Victorian surfer Xavier Huxtable was in good rhythm for his first event in 2021 after spending the last 12 months recovering from a number of major knee injuries. The exciting natural footer reacquainted himself with competition perfectly, taking an early round heat win to progress into Round 3 as he moves his focus from the Junior Series, to Challenger Series Qualification.
"It felt good to finally get the rashie back on after almost a year and a half off," Huxtable said. I've had a lot of support from Surfing Australia, Surfing Vic and the Vic Institute of Sport so I'm glad to come back and make a heat off the bat. I've had a few surfs that were nerve-racking as far as re-injuring my knee but I'm feeling back to 100 percent now so am happy to be competing and have full confidence in my body. I've surfed up here a lot and it's always fun to surf on the Tweed. The winter weather is incredible and there is always a wave so it's a great spot for an event."
The standout performance of the day went to Connor Lyons who posted a near excellent heat total of 15.33 in the last heat of the day. Lyons showed an awesome combination of speed, power and flow to win his heat with the highest two-wave combination of the event so far.
Gold Coast duo Nick Vasicek and Brent Dorrington used their experience to put up decent scores at Cabarita with both surfers moving into Round 3 with a solid showing in the at times tough conditions.
David Vlug, Jordin Watson, Stuart Kennedy and Curtis Ewing were other QS veterans that showed they haven't lost any of their competitive nous, with each surfer chalking up heat wins on the opening day of QS competition at Cabarita.
Be sure to tune in tomorrow as competition continues and the top seeds hit the water at Cabarita from 8:00 am AEST.
The Oakberry Tweed Coast Pro is supported by the NSW Government's Regional Events Acceleration Fund which encourages new major events to be delivered in regional areas, where they will have a positive impact on local economies.
The 2021 Oakberry Tweed Coast Pro QS5,000 and Pro Junior Events are set to run on the Tweed Coast from June 19 - 25.