- WSL / Cait Miers

Jordy Lawler (AUS) and Sarah Baum (RSA) have kicked off their 2023 competitive season perfectly with wins at the Oakberry Tweed Coast Pro World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 5,000 event. The pair had to battle against a massive field of Australia and Ocenaia's best up-and-coming surfers, with Cabarita Head turning on pristine conditions for Finals Day with waves in the two-to-three foot range.

Jordan Lawler Jordan Lawler boosting his way to the win. - WSL / Cait Miers

The men's Final was a ding-dong battle between two of the most impressive surfers of the week, eventual winner Jordy Lawler (AUS) and Te Kehukehu Butler (NZL). The 30-minute matchup saw fireworks from the get-go, with the competitors trading set wave for set wave and significant scores coming from every ride. There wasn't much to separate the competitors until Lawler found a short left with a big ramp and took to the air, riding out of a super fast full-rotation air-reverse to post a 9.07 (out of a possible 10), the equal highest single ride of the entire event. In the end, Lawler's two-wave total of 15.74 (out of a possible 20) was too much for Butler to chase down, leaving North Narabeen's Lawler to take his first major victory since 2019.

"I don't know what feels better right now, the points or the winning feeling," Lawler said. "It's been a few years since getting a win like that, so I just had to sit out there for a moment and take it all in. I forgot what this feeling was like, and I've got a lot of friends down here and my brother, so this feels really special. It was awesome to share the final with Kehu; he's like a brother to me, so it was good to be out there with him. I'm keen to get on a bit of a roll over these next few events and get back onto the Challenger Series in 2023."

Jordan Lawler Jordan Lawler chaired to victory at Cabarita. - WSL / Cait Miers

The women's Final saw a generational clash as the veteran Sarah Baum (RSA) came up against teenager Coco Cairns (AUS) in a thrilling matchup between two event standouts. Cairns came out of the gates strong, posting multiple scores early, only to be chased down by Baum, whose backhand surfing had been impressing the judges all week. Baum took the lead with a two-wave total of 13.06 and then played defence for the remainder of the heat. Cairns found a couple of waves under priority, but in the end, the experience of South African-born Newcastle local Baum took the win, the biggest and most important of her career.

"I can't even believe this; it hasn't sunk in yet," Baum said. "I felt like I was struggling out there and couldn't find the waves I was hoping for, but in the end got a couple of hacks in, and it was obviously enough to get me over the line. This is definitely the biggest win of my career, and I'm stoked to get it done at the start of this run of events so I can surf with some comfort in the next few. It feels good to have all this hard work and commitment pay off, and I hope to keep it going now."

Sarah Baum Sarah Baum chaired up the stairrs for the biggest win of her carreer. - WSL / Cait Miers

Although she was unable to take the win in the Final, Coco Cairns (AUS) was thankful for the experience she had today, finding her way to Finals Day at the QS level for the first time.

"This is the biggest result of my career, so I'm stoked," Cairns said. "I don't have plans to qualify for the Challenger Series just yet, and I'm not putting any pressure on myself, so I'm thrilled to have made it this far and get this experience."

Coco Cairns Coco Cairns securing the biggest win of her young career. - WSL / Cait Miers

Similarly to Cairns, men's runner-up Te Kehukehu Butler (NZL) was proud of his efforts at Cabarita as the 3,900 points he earned today have rocketed him up the WSL Australia / Oceania regional rankings and closer to another season on the Challenger Series.

"Second place is a solid result in these events," Butler said. "The talent here is crazy, so I'm stoked to have made it through the field and to the final - the level of surfing is super high. It's super cool how much everyone pushes each other, and it is good for all our surfing. I'm proud to have performed for my friends and family back home in New Zealand who are doing it tough now."

Te Kehukehu Butler Te Kehukehu Butler was on pointv all week on the Tweed Coast. - WSL / Cait Miers

Competitors will now shift their focus to the Gold Coast Open QS 1,000, which will kick off tomorrow at the iconic Burleigh Heads and run until Sunday, February 19.

The 2023 Oakberry Tweed Coast Pro will run from February 10 - 16.

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