- WSL / Shannon Hayes

Holly Williams (AUS) and Soli Bailey (AUS) have claimed victory at the 2023 Surfers Rescue 24/7 Port Stephens Pro, World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000 event. Both surfers prevailed over a massive field in challenging surf as Birubi delivered another day of semi-clean waves in the one-to-two foot range.

Holly Williams Holly Williams chaired to victory at Birubi Beach for her second QS 1,000 event win. - WSL / Shannon Hayes

Men's winner Soli Bailey (AUS) had to pull on all of his experience to clinch the win over Gold Coast upstart Ty Richardson (AUS), with the pair going blow-for-blow in their 30-minute match-up. Richardson dominated the heat, posting the highest single wave score of the event, with an 8.14 (out of a possible 10) for a series of whipping frontside hacks. Bailey needed a mid-range seven to take the lead, and with only 30 seconds left, the former Championship Tour surfer found a wave, laid a hack, then backed it up with a frontside air-reverse to get the score and take the win. After taking some time away from competition, this win could be the momentum builder Bailey needs to return to the Challenger Series in 2023.

"You don't always want to win like that, but it's so good when it happens," Bailey said. "I had this feeling the whole event, but in particular in the final, that it was just going to happen - I just kept telling myself that it's going to happen. When I took off on that wave at the end, I lost all my speed on the first turn and started to think that this would not be a 7.50, so I had to throw it up into the wind and luckily pulled it off. Ty (Richardson) put me against the wall from the start - he's a really bright light in the future of Australian surfing; he's got a great competitive brain and the surfing to match, so he has a bright future. I'm so stoked to get this win."

Soli Bailey Soli Bailey throwing everything at his last wave -- it paid off. - WSL / Shannon Hayes

The women's Final saw QS veteran Philippa Anderson (AUS) take on Sunshine Coast up-and-comer Holly Williams (AUS) as both women sought to solidify their spot in the top 10 on the Australia / Oceania regional rankings. Anderson held the lead for the majority of the heat but it was Williams's patience that paid off in the end as she took the lead in the last five minutes and then consolidated with the highest single ride of the heat on the last wave of the heat. Williams leaves Port Stephen's with an extra 1000 points to her name as she heads to Maroubra to defend her 2022 win at that event.

"I'm beyond happy right now," Williams said. "I just had a bit of a moment to myself on the beach to let it all sink in and it feels amazing. After the last event, I came into this event with a different mindset and wanted to just focus on having fun and enjoying myself. Now I know that works for me I can't wait to take the same attitude into the last few events of the leg and know that anything is possible. In the end, I knew there hadn't been a set for a while and that I just needed to pick the right wave and surf it well - I managed to do that and get the win - I'm lost for words."

Holly Williams Holly Williams has been building to this result over the last few events. - WSL / Shannon Hayes

Runners-up Ty Richardson and Philippa Anderson both fell agonisingly short of winning at Birubi but leave in better positions on the rankings than when they arrived. For Anderson, the second-place finish will set her up for an assault on the Challenger Series in 2023, whilst, for Richardson, his QS final result is the best of his young career.

Competitors will now shift their focus to the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney ahead of the Mad Mex Maroubra Pro QS 1,000, which is set to commence on Friday, March 3.

The Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series 2023 is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

The 2023 Surfers Rescue 24/7 Port Stephens Pro QS 1,000, will run from February 27 - March 1.

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