The stage has been set for Finals Day at the 2023 Oakberry Tweed Coast Pro World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 5,000 after the penultimate day of competition was completed today at Cabarita Headland. Australia and Ocenaia's best up-and-coming surfers continued to put on impressive performances as the Tweed Coast delivered another day of semi-clean surf in the three-to-four foot range.
2022 saw Victorian competitor India Robinson (AUS) compete on the elite Championship Tour for the first half of the season before becoming a victim of the mid-season cut. Robinson could only give the world a small glimpse of her incredible potential and aims to return to the elite level by year's end. Today she got her journey started right, booking herself a spot in the Quarterfinals at a QS 5,000 event with another solid heat win.
"It's been a tough event so far, and I feel like I've just been getting through," Robinson said. "I Like that though because you don't want to peak too early. I hope to do my best surfing tomorrow on Finals Day. Last year I missed the cut by only two spots and then decided not to follow the Challenger Series and instead try to get over my post-concussion syndrome. I focussed on putting my health first, which has been a long process, but I'm feeling good now and am really happy to be back."
Alister Reginato (AUS) fired a warning shot across the bow of the competition today, posting the highest heat total of the event in the Round of 32 and backing it up with the highest single wave of the event in the Round of 16. Reginato's two-wave total of 18.00 (out of a possible 20) came from an incredible display of speed and power on his frontside with huge carves and committed closeout hits. In his Round of 16 heat, Reginato was unable to find himself a score to move into a progressing spot until he threw caution to the wind with a massive backside full-rotation air-reverse which he landed smoothly to earn a near-perfect 9.50 (out of a possible 10) to move into the Quarterfinals.
"It felt nice to get some decent waves that allowed me to open up and really show my surfing," Reginato said. "The waves are tricky because you don't know what you're going to get until you take off on them, and fortunately, I found a few that ran at a good pace."
Local competitor Zahli Kelly (AUS) was a clear standout on Day 4 of competition, posting the highest heat total of both the Round of 32 and the Round of 16. Hailing from the Tweed Coast, Kelly looked right at home on the waves at Cabarita, earning excellent scores for her lightning-quick frontside snaps. Kelly will look for a significant result at her home event as she looks to return to the Challenger Series in 2023.
"That just felt like an everyday surf for me down at my home beach," Kelly said. "This feels good; I knew at the start of this year that I need to get quarterfinals or above at all of the big QS events, so it's nice to be in this position ahead of finals day. I've been relaxing a bit more around my heats, which is great; it just keeps it fun."
Sunshine Coast competitor Reef Heazlewood (AUS) put on a clutch performance to move from fourth to first in the dying seconds of his Round of 16 heat. The exciting goofy footer had been a standout all event but found himself on the cusp of being relegated before he found one last wave and performed a critical backside fin-ditch to post a 6.33 and move into the Quarterfinals.
Other standouts today included Sarah Baum (ZAF), Kehu Butler (NZL) and Kalani Ball (AUS), to name a few.
Event directors will reconvene at 6:30 a.m. local time tomorrow to make another call on competition with a likely 7:00 a.m. start time at Cabarita. The 2023 Oakberry Tweed Coast Pro will run from February 10 - 16.