(Newcastle, AUSTRALIA, 20 January 2015)
WORLD number six Julian Wilson and women’s world number three Sally Fitzgibbons head a record field of 347 surfers from 22 countries vying for a start in the 6000 point Qualifying Series (QS) events at the 2016 Surfest Newcastle Australia which gets underway next month at Merewether beach.
When entries closed at midday (EST) today, the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro had attracted a total of 232 surfers and the Taggart Women’s Pro had received 115 entries.
Surfers representing Australia, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Hawaii, Guadeloupe, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Saint Barthélemy, the United States and the United Kingdom will descend on Newcastle in February and boost the local economy.
To accommodate the record number of entrants, organisers will be forced to run international trials on February 21, a day before the QS competitions are scheduled to commence.
Surfest chief Warren Smith says the huge wave of interest in both events from around the globe necessitates the trials.
“Our contest director Dave Kilby has been working with the World Surf League and we are arranging the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the demand from entrants.
“As far as organisational challenges go, this is the one we’d all prefer. We’ll get it sorted,” Mr Smith said.
A total of 20 male and female entrants from the World Surf League’s elite championship tour will put on the contest rashie for their first pro-surfing outing in 2016. Besides Wilson, the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro will see experienced Aussie duo Matt Banting and Matt Wilkinson, along with world number 20 Keanu Asing from Hawaii and the USA’s Kanoa Igarashi.
Newcastle will enjoy the benefit of seeing an array of championship tour rookies contend for the Mark Richards trophy. Aussies who made the big time tour for 2016 include Narrabeen’s Davey Cathels and two-time world junior champion and 2015 QS runner-up Jack Freestone.
The 2015 QS champion Caio Ibelli and his fellow Brazilian Alexsander Ribeiro are in the mix, as is 23-year-old Merewether local Ryan Callinan. No local male surfer has ever won Surfest but Callinan sure knows the waves around Merewether – he has been surfing the place since he was five-years-old.
The Taggart Women’s Pro – the first pro-surfing competition on the planet to be uniquely crowd-funded by local Hunter-region businesses who made 73 contributions of $1650 to have a chance at becoming the naming rights sponsor – has also attracted a total of ten surfers from the elite tour.
Besides top seed and the 2012 Surfest champion Sally Fitzgibbons, six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore, who claimed the crown at Surfest in 2008, will be joined by a strong Aussie contingent including world number nine Nikki Van Dijk, Laura Enever and Keely Andrew. They will be up against Hawaiian trio Malia Manuel, Coco Ho, Tatiana Weston-Webb, along with the USA’s Sage Erikson and Chelsea Tuach from Barbados.
Also surfing in the Taggart Women’s Pro is the 2009 Surfest champion and 2015 event runner-up Philippa Anderson. Alana Blanchard, who boasts more than 1.5 million Instagram followers, will also be competing.
Media inquiries: Warren Smith +61 412 127 525