It's been another massive day of action at Cabarita for Day 3 of the Oakberry Tweed Coast Pro World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 5000 event with a total of 20 heats being run of men's and women's competition. With Men's Round of 64 hitting the water, it was the top seeds opportunity to take their turn as Cabarita Headland continued to deliver clean, two-to-three foot right hand reeling waves.
After a few lower than average results already this season, goofy-foot dynamo Reef Heazlewood is looking to turn things around here at Cabarita and today, he took steps in the right direction, posting the highest two-wave combination of the event so far. Heazlewood's 13.77 (out of a possible 20) came from an impressive combination of backside power turns and full-rotations aerials. Heazlewood will surf in Heat 5 of the Round of 32 when competition resumes.
"It's always nice to land a few and walk away with a heat win - I'm feeling good after that one," Heazlewood said. "It's been a bit of a rough start to the year so far with not the best results so it feels good to post some decent scores and guarantee a few more heats under the belt. I really want to make sure this event counts and head to Newcastle on fire. I think I've been thinking too much about Challenger Series qualification instead of focusing on what's right in front of me so I changed my mindset for that heat and it seemed to work for me."
Another top seed looking for a big result on the Tweed Coast is West Australian Jacob Willcox who came into the event with a knee injury that almost forced him to pull out of competition altogether. Willcox has been nursing a torn MCL and paddled out purely to get his points then go home and rest with an equal 25th next to his name, hoping to recover in time for Surfest Newcastle. Instead, Willcox turned on his razor sharp backside, to post two mid-range scores and take the win, keeping his CS qualification dream alive.
"I actually injured my knee competing in Avoca last week," Willcox said. "I came down from a turn and heard it pop, which is never a good thing. I came back and got straight into some physio and didn't plan on competing but changed my mind as it began to improve a bit over the last couple of days - plus, when I saw the bank we have here and realised I'd be doing backhand snaps I knew I'd be pretty safe to not do anymore damage. Getting the win has given me some confidence though that I could make a couple more then access from there what my plan will be. It's amazing what adrenaline and nerves can do to take away pain so let's see what tomorrow brings."
Fresh off a win at last week's Central Coast Pro Kalani Ball comes into the Tweed Coast event as one of the favourites. Ball, having missed out on CT qualification by a narrow margin with his Quarterfinal finish at the Haleiwa Challenger, knows that he has what it takes to mix it with the best and now, all he has to do is find himself a spot back on the CS for 2022. The young South Coaster is heading in the right direction having a solid win today which could just do enough to keep him on top of the Australia / Oceania regional QS rankings.
"The competition is cut throat at these events and anyone could take the win so I just want to do my best and try and make the finals again and keep accumulating points," Ball said. "My confidence is there and I've had a couple of good results, including my first ever QS win, so I just need to keep that going. Heading away on the CS last year was tricky. It had been a couple of years since we had all tested ourselves against the world's best and I had an average start but getting the result in Hawaii was huge for my confidence and I want to keep that going into the CS this year if I get back there. The ultimate goal is to qualify and now I know I have it in me, I just need to get back there and take the opportunities I'm given."
While Ball hoisted the men's trophy at Avoca, Macy Callaghan did so on the women's side. The former CT surfer is in solid form and eager to return to where she belongs at the elite level Championship Tour. As the afternoon onshore wind puffed up, Callaghan and good friend Dimity Stoyle made light of the tough conditions to both progress into the Round of 16 and one step closer to the 2022 WSL Challenger Series.
"Last week's win was my first in a long time," Callaghan said. "It was awesome to do it at home but it's good to be back up North again and hopefully I'll be getting another win up here. My aim is to make as many heats as I can purely for the experience and the confidence. On the CT you don't surf that many heats, especially when you're losing, so it's good to be getting plenty of time in the jersey."
As the on-shore wind continued to moderate, each heat came down to what surfer could make the most of the small opportunities they were gifted, meaning competitive experience was extremely important. A competitor with plenty of experience is Newcastle's Philippa Anderson who dominated her heat to progress into the Round of 16. Anderson is sitting in third on the regional rankings and is hopeful to break through to the CT in 2023.
"The wave quality has definitely dropped this afternoon which is always tough to watch before your heat," Anderson said. "When it is like this, anyone can luck into a wave that offers one section and get a winning score so I knew it was going to be important to take as many opportunities as I could. On days when the conditions change like this, you have to accept what you have in front of you."
Other standouts on Day 2 included former CT competitors Keely Andrew and Stu Kennedy along with Mitch Parkinson, Oscar Berry, Sierra Kerr and Kobie Enright to name a few.
Event organisers will reconvene at Cabarita Headland tomorrow morning at 7:30 am local time to call on competition with the remaining heats of Men's Round of 32 likely to commence proceedings.
The Oakberry Tweed Coast Pro is supported by the NSW Government's Regional Events Acceleration Fund which supports events in regional areas, where they will have a positive impact on local economies, along with Oakberry Acai, Harvey Norman, Bond University and Tweed Shire Council.
The upcoming Oakberry Tweed Coast Pro will run on the beautiful Tweed Coast from March 21 - 27 2022.