- WSL / Darren Anderson

Joel Vaughan (AUS) and Bronte Macaulay (AUS) have claimed victory at the Burton Automotive & Speaking in Colour Pro World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 5,000. It was a massive day of competition with regional QS winners being decided as well as qualifiers for the 2023 Challenger Series (CS) as Merewther turned on semi-clean two-to-three foot surf for the last regional event for the ‘22/'23 season.

Joel Vaughan Joel Vaughan chaired to victory at Merewether Beach. - WSL / Darren Anderson

Coming into Finals Day, both Joel Vaughan (AUS) and George Pittar (AUS) needed to make it deep into the draw if they were any chance of moving up the rankings and into the bracket for Challenger Series Qualification. Both surfers put it all on the line to eventually find themselves in the Final and in fourth and fifth on the rankings, respectively.

Joel Vaughan (AUS) came into the men's Final carrying serious momentum after he posted the highest heat total of the entire event with an incredible aerial display in his Semifinal win over Reef Heazlewood (AUS). In the Final, both Pittar and Vaughan had the pressure of CS qualification alleviated and were able to focus on one thing, winning the biggest event of their careers. In the end, the 35-minute matchup was dominated by Vaughan as Pittar struggled to find a rhythm. Joel posted a two-wave total of 13.83 which proved too much for Pittar to chase down, leaving Vaughan to take the biggest win of his young career.

"I'm so stoked with this win," Vaughan said. "If you told me this morning that I would win this event I wouldn't have believed you. The win along with the CS qualification is amazing. It was so cool for everyone from North Shelly to be up here on the beach supporting me - it definitely gave me that boost of confidence. I've had a good run this year for the most part and this is the cherry on top. The win today is going to do a lot for my confidence heading into this year's Challenger Series so I can't wait."

Joel Vaughan Joel Vaughan was on fire on Finals Day. - WSL / Darren Anderson

The women's Final was a familiar sight at Merewether with 2020 event winner Bronte Macaulay (AUS) taking on 2022 event runner-up Sarah Baum (RSA). With both competitors already finding spots on the Challenger Series in 2023, the Final was all about pride and building confidence. Macaulay was the form surfer of the event and it showed in the Final as she took an early lead that Baum was unable to chase down, leaving Bronte to claim her second win and join the likes of Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Mick Fanning (AUS), Tom Carrol (AUS) and Mark Occhilupo (AUS) amongst others, as a two-time Surfest winner.

"There is something so special about this place - I just love it," Macaulay said. "I've had a great week here catching up with friends and competing, it's been so good. I'm keen to get started on the Challenger Series and find my way back onto the Championship Tour. I want to keep working on improving my surfing and I'll need to if I want to get back on top. This is a good start to the campaign."

Joel Vaughan Prize Giving. - WSL / Darren Anderson

South African-born Sarah Baum (RSA) has called Newcastle home for over five years now and her connection with the community here was evident during the final as the local crowd got behind her. Baum struggled to find the waves in the Final but she capped off an impressive regional series with a win and a second at the two QS 5,000s this year.

"It's been a good start to the year for me so I'm really happy to keep my performance up," Baum said. "It's so special to compete here with so much support, it's definitely my favourite event on the calendar. I have improved year after year on the Challenger Series and I'm hoping the next improvement will put me in the top 5 and on the top level next year."

Although George Pittar (AUS) was unable to overcome Joel Vaughan in the Final, a second-place finish at the Burton Automotive Pro is the biggest result of his career to date and was enough to push him into the top 5 on the regional rankings.

"This is definitely the best day of my life," Pittar said. "Making the Final of Surfest, the last event of the series with big points on offer and qualifying for the Challenger Series - It's just been an epic day. It was definitely a tricky final for waves and Joel was always going to be tough to beat but I'm so happy with my performance over the last few days."

George Pittar George Pittar - WSL / Darren Anderson

At the end of the competition today, the rankings were set for both the WSL Asia and Australia / Oceania regions, with representatives for this year's Challenger Series being decided. See the list of representatives below, as well as the regional Champions for 2023. With Jarvis Earle (AUS) taking a wildcard from his World Junior Championship victory, the eighth competitor on the rankings will also take a spot in this year's Challenger Series.

Both regions will allocate one men's and one women's wildcard position to a surfer who is yet to be confirmed.

2023 WSL Australia / Oceania Challenger Series Representatives


Reef Heazlewood Jarvis Earle (World Junior Champion Qualifier) Alister Reginato Joel Vaughan George Pittar Billy Stairmand Mikey McDonagh Te Kehukehu Butler Regional Wildcard TBC

Women's Kobie Enright Paige Hareb Ellie Harrison Nyxie Ryan Regional Wildcard TBC

2023 WSL Asia Challenger Series Representatives

Men's Ketut Agus Oney Anwar Daiki Tanaka John Mark Tokong Kian Martin Regional Wildcard TBC

Women's Nanaho Tsuzuki Minami Nonaka Anon Matsuoka Regional Wildcard TBC

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