Newcastle, NSW, Australia, Wednesday 22 January, 2013.
SURFEST organisers are ecstatic with the overwhelming response from many of the world’s best surfers seeking a place in the Burton Toyota Open and the Hunter Ports Women’s Classic to be held next month in the hometown of four-time world champion and Australia’s most influential surfer, Mark Richards.
Surfest chief Warren Smith said the large number of male surfers seeking entry to the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) 6-Star events necessitated the running of international trials to determine the final field of 144 male competitors in the main event. When entries closed at midday today for the 29th Surfest, 217 men had nominated and 13 of the top 17 women surfers in the world had signed on for the Hunter Ports Women’s Classic. We haven’t seen interest like that since the mid-1990s.”
Warren Smith also said, “Surfest are working with the ASP to run international trials with 32 spots at Dixon Park (just north of the main contest site) on Sunday 16 February to determine the final field of male surfers competing for both the Mark Richards trophy and US$155 000 on offer in the Burton Toyota Open. Four of those 32 surfers will grab a spot in the main event.”
Long-time ASP tour manager Al Hunt says the keen interest is most likely due to the existence of just two six-star competitions – Newcastle and Manly – scheduled for the 2014 pro surf tour’s Aussie leg.
Queenslanders – including the event’s defending champion and current world number three Joel Parkinson and world number six Julian Wilson – head up the Australian contingent, which also includes ASP World Championship Tour surfers Matt Wilkinson (NSW) and Yadin Nicol (WA), along with two-time ASP world junior champion Jack Freestone (QLD).
Other highly ranked surfers to line up in the Burton Toyota Pro include Californian sensation Dane Reynolds, Brazilian duo Adrian De Souza and Felipe Toledo, Hawaiian Fredrick Patacchia and former Newcastle champ Glenn Hall (Ireland).
Current world number three, Australian Sally Fitzgibbon – who won the trophy here in 2012 – is the top seed in the Hunter Ports Women’s Classic.
Five-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore – currently ranked world number five – will once again wear the coloured singlet in Newcastle.
The natural-footer – who turns 26 in a week’s time (29 January 2014) – won a Surfest crown in 2008 whilst reigning world champion, following on from her explosive 2007 rookie year on the world surfing tour.
Other Aussie women competitors include Laura Enever (NSW) and three-time champion at this event, Rebecca Woods (NSW).
Internationals include Courtney Conlogue (USA), Bianca Buitendag (South Africa), Alana Blanchard and Malia Manuel (Hawaii) and Paige Hareb (NZ).
The Burton Toyota Pro and the Hunter Ports Women’s Classic will commence on Monday, 17 February 2014.
For further information call Warren Smith on 0412127525