The first day of the Port Stephens and Maitland Toyota Pro and the Taggart Women’s Pro has been completed in two-foot waves at Merewether Beach. Both events are World Surf League (WSL) QS6,000 (Qualifying Series) events and have attracted an outstanding international field.
The second heat of the morning was one to watch with the 2004 Women’s World Champion, Sophia Mulunovich (PER) hitting the water. The veteran has not competed in a few years and was slow to get started. She eventually found a couple of set waves in a row and was able to put down some beautiful rail surfing all the way to the inside where she busted her fins out on a closeout re-entry.
“It feels great to get the contest jersey back on and compete,” Mulunovich said. “I haven’t been to Australia in a while so it’s great to be back in such a magical place. The waves are fun when they come, I just waited for a good one and that seemed to work, I’m excited to get back out there in my next heat.”
After being unable to requalify for the CT (Championship Tour) in 2016, Brazilian surfer Silvan Lima is keen to do some damage on the QS this year and get back to the top. This was made very apparent in Lima’s Round 1 heat where she dropped an excellent 9.00 point ride (out of a possible 10) to progress with ease into the second round and closer to repeating her win from 2010 at this event.
“The waves are small but there is no wind so it’s clean and pretty fun when they come,” Lima said. “I felt comfortable out there once I had two scores so I just put everything into that last wave and ended up with a 9.00 so I was stoked. I’m really happy to be back in Newcastle, I love it.”Another former CT surfer who was able to progress through Round 1 was Hawaiian Alana Blanchard who also left it until the last minute to find a score. Blanchard found herself in fourth spot until she got busy late in her heat performing some seriously stylish forehand turns to bump up into second spot and through to Round 2.
“It was a lot trickier than I thought it was going to be out there,” Blanchard said. “That was my first time surfing out here so I wasn’t very prepared. Luckily I eventually got a couple of scores and got through. Hopefully now that I’ve had a surf out here my next heat won’t be so rushed.”
Tahitian surfer Mihimana Braye was lucky to get through his Round 1 heat after trailing for the majority of the heat. The stylish goofy-footer needed a 5.25 to move into second place when he found a long medium sized right-hander. Braye was able to execute a number of quick backhand snaps and was rewarded a 6.67 to move though.
“The conditions are super tough, you have to be lucky to find the good waves,” Braye said. “I had priority at the end so was just waiting for a good one. I knew if I got the right wave I could get the score, and that’s what happened so I’m stoked to keep going in the contest.”
Light footed Byron Bay local Garrett Parkes revelled in the small conditions posting two medium scores for a heat total of 13.36 to progress. Parkes through a few air-reverses during his heat making it look far too easy.
“It’s tough conditions today but lucky we have this little rock point that seems to work in all conditions so there still enough on offer for us out there,” Parkes said “I just tried to pick the best waves I could see and stay as loose as possible, that’s what I like to do in these conditions. I had fun out there and am pumped to make it through.”