- WSL / Natalie Meredith

The second event of the Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series has kicked off at Birubi Beach (Worimi Country). The stacked field of competitors are looking to keep up their form on the opening day of the 2022 Gage Roads Port Stephens Pro World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 1000 event.

The event has attracted over 120 competitors from across Australia and New Zealand and today kicked off in glassy three-to-four foot surf at Birubi Beach with the completion of both the first and second rounds in the Men's and Women's divisions. The day's proceedings also saw Women's Round 3 heats 1-4 completed.

Chad Elkins Chad Elkins progressing through to Round 3 of competiton. - WSL / Natalie Meredith

In the first heat of the Round 2 Men's draw, Gold Coast youngster Oscar Berry took no time in getting his 2022 Gage Roads Port Stephens Pro campaign off to a strong start. Berry was able to take home a commanding win. He highlighted his aggressive rail game that will hold him in good stead for the rest of the event. After a fifth place finish at Phillip Island, Berry is looking to go deep into the draw once again as he looks for Challenger Series qualification.

"I'm stoked to be through to the next round in a really competitive field here at Birubi," Berry said. "It's always exciting when you pull up and it's three feet and pumping like it is today. Being my first QS series ever, I'm just wanting to gain experience and consistency from these events and making a couple of heats is certainly a bonus and something that I'll take confidence out of going into the next few competitions."

Oscar Berry Oscar Berry throwing caution to the wind at Birubi. - WSL / Natalie Meredith

In a highly entertaining second round heat, Ash Jenner was able to go to the air at will and take home the victory. Jenner was able to boost out of many sections in the matchup taking advantage of some big ramp sections to book his spot in the third round and leave his fellow competitors chasing a strong score to move ahead. The Point Lookout (QLD) local will now take on the in-form surfers Kalani Ball, Noah Stocca and Koda Killorn.

"I'm pumped to make my first heat of the QS series this year in what were some really quality waves," Jenner said. "I'm hoping to get a lot of solid heat experience out of these QS and Pro Junior events and it's great to travel down for a bit of a road trip for the series from Point Lookout. I can't wait for the rest of this Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series."

Ash Jenner Ash Jenner making his mark on the QS. - WSL / Natalie Meredith

Another standout from the Men's field was former Championship Tour surfer Nathan Hedge. The former World Championship Tour surfer from North Narrabeen locked away two strong scores early in the heat to control the remainder of the matchup against a young field that included Jay Occhilupo, Joshua Levey and Chad Elkins. To put the icing on the cake Hedge was able to put up a clinical performance on his final wave of the heat, scoring a 7.90 for a couple of huge turns on a long left hander.

The heat saw another layer to a long running Occhilupo and Hedge rivalry with Hedge this time taking on Jay as opposed to taking on his father 1999 World Champion Mark Occhilupo during both their Championship Tour days during the late 90's and early 2000's. Hedge, arguably the most experienced competitor in the draw moves on through his first heat of the series as he builds confidence and rhythm out in a line-up where he hasn't surfed before.

"It's actually my first time here at Birubi so I am really trying to generate some energy and rhythm out in the lineup," Hedge said. "I'm hoping to really get myself going in this event in some bigger waves, I was disappointed to go down in my first heat at Boomerang, however it's epic to get my feet back in the wax and get a good start here at Birubi. My goal is to try and crack the top ten on the rankings before the first Challenger Series event at Snapper Rocks. When I heard the first event of that series was at Snapper, I was full of excitement. It's really motivated me to want to throw the jersey back on after a couple of years out".

Nathan Hedge The always refelctive Nathan Hedge pre heat. - WSL / Natalie Meredith

In some excellent glassy, offshore conditions in the afternoon, Women's Round 2 and 3 action took to the water with surfers putting their best surfing forward to secure a spot in tomorrow's proceedings. Afternoon action saw the full completion of Round 2 and the first four heats of Round 3 completed, setting up an exciting day to come.

The first four heats of Round 3 saw the top seeds hit the water for the first time, looking to continue their form and top tier rankings from the 2021 Qualifying Series and the first two events of the 2022 period.

In the first heat of the round, in form surfer Jade Wheatley was able to show off her powerful forehand attack take home a commanding win and keep up her strong form from earlier in the day where she was able take a second round win. Wheatley was pitted against event wildcard Jasmine Sampson, top seed Zahli Kelly and Marie Moana Troja in an enthralling back and forth encounter. Wheatley surfed a smart heat from the outset, posting two solid scores including a clutch 7.50 to take the lead with 30 seconds remaining and overtake the top seed in Kelly.

"It feels great to be off to a strong start in this event and get a couple of heat wins today," Wheatley said. "I was certainly trying to keep my nerves down with a couple of minutes to go and was stoked when I found that 7.50 at the end. I'm hoping to keep my momentum going and to keep enjoying my maiden QS series."

Jade Wheatley Jade Wheatley was on fire in her Round 3 heat. - WSL / Natalie Meredith

From the completion of Round 2 the standout performer was Brittani Nicholl who had a convincing win with a 7.75 as her highest single wave score. The powerful natural footer was able to find a strong backup early in the heat to put the scoreboard pressure on, leaving her fellow competitors trailing and in need of a solid score to move into the lead. Nicholl moves into the third round with her excitement at a high after putting the jersey on once again after several years out of the water.

"I'm so happy to be moving into the third round in this event after such a long time out of the jersey", Nicholl said. "I'm glad to be back competing and think that my best surfing is good enough to contend with the ladies here in the QS series. I'm just stoked to be back in the water and improving my surfing with some more time up my sleeve".

Britt Nicholl Britt Nicholl posted the highest score of the Day. - WSL / Natalie Meredith

Competition is set to resume tomorrow morning at Birubi Beach with the remainder of Round 3 of the Women's to kick off the day at 7:30 a.m. AEDT.

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