Picture: Isabella Nichols (AUS) Credit: © WSL / Tom Bennett
Merewether, NSW /AUS (Saturday, March 16, 2019) – Surfers have battled rain and wind at Merewether for Day 6 of the 2019 Newcastle Surfest to set up the Final Day of competition at the Burton Automotive Pro and Holmes Civil Developments Pro. There were some huge performances from some of the world’s best as competitors move closer to setting up their Qualifying Series campaigns for 2019.
Former WSL World Junior Champion Isabella Nichols (AUS) has guaranteed her best finish at Newcastle’s Surfest, continuing her great run of form and locking in a spot in the Quarterfinals tomorrow. After a number of years in a row of only just missing the cut for qualification, Nichols is all too aware that her poor starts to the season were hurting her end of year ranking. Locking in a spot on Final’s Day could be the boost the Sunshine Coast native needs to find a spot on the elite Championship Tour.
“This is the first time I’ve made the Quarterfinals in Newcastle,” Nichols said. “There are always a lot of CT surfers here and I always end up getting dealt a tough hand early in the event. I’ve still had really hard heats this event, especially that one with Chelsea (Tuach), but I guess I got lucky with good waves coming to me. I’m stoked to have a decent result already. I’m hoping I can keep the ball rolling tomorrow because a good result here will definitely take a bit of pressure off heading to Manly next week.”
Former Championship Tour competitor Matt Banting (AUS) made his return to competitive surfing this time last year after a string of injuries saw him take some time away from competition. Although he started the year well, his results dropped off as Banting had the realization that he may not have been ready to compete at the WSL level just yet. In 2019, Banting feels better than ever both mentally and Physically and is ready to see it translate into big results as he eyes off re-qualification this season.
“Last year I thought I was ready to come back but I clearly wasn’t,” Banting said. “I’m feeling really good at the moment so I think I can really start my campaign this season. Making it to the Quarterfinals is great but I’m eyeing off a Final spot. I want to Qualify and I want to do it with solid results not by just scrapping in so although this is great there is still a lot of work to be done. It’s a really long year so I don’t want to get ahead of myself, I just want to stay consistent. I feel like a whole different person from this time last year which is great.”
Malia Manuel (HAW) doesn’t need the perfect waves of the CT for motivation to compete as a decent QS ranking helps to alleviate pressure when she starts the 2019 CT season. Manuel not only uses the Australian QS leg to warm up but to help maintain her spot on the Dream Tour at year’s end. Manuel’s tactics moved in the right direction today as she booked herself a spot in the Quarterfinals.
“It is a little nerve racking surfing heats in conditions like this because anything can happen,” Manuel said. “When you’re surfing a wave like J-Bay it comes down to your surfing more than luck, but that’s what I like about surfing heats like today because it’s a totally different challenge. There are a lot of motivated and competitive surfers here so it really pushes you to surf well. The preparation for heats in a QS event doesn’t differ from the CT for me, regardless of the conditions. I love starting my season down in Australia and if I can manage to string a couple of decent results together at these QS events it will definitely help take the pressure off leading into the CT events.”
Heat 8 of Round 5 went down to the wire as Brazilian powerhouse Alex Ribiero (BRA) went toe-to-toe with Championship Tour surfer Patrick Gudauskas (USA). Ribiero held a slender lead throughout the heat but was never safe as Gudauskas pressed throughout the matchup. Needing a good score in the dying seconds, Guduaskas took off without priority and smashed a huge lay back after the buzzer but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide leaving Ribiero to move into the Quarterfinals where he’ll meet young Frenchman Charly Quivront (FRA).
“I saw that the wave wasn’t offering much so let him take it,” Ribiero said. “I was still so nervous because I knew he could get the score with one move but I’m glad I played it that way. With conditions like they are today a great wave could pop up out of nowhere so I had to be smart. I’m feeling in really good shape at the moment so am excited for the Quarterfinals tomorrow.”
Jack Robinson (AUS) and Miguel Tudela (PER) have both guaranteed their best starts to the season, each putting on excellent performances in the victory at sea conditions. The duo will do battle in Quarterfinal 1 while Jadson Andre and Tanner Guduaskas will meet in Quarterfinal 2.
CT competitors Bronte Macaulay (AUS) and Paige Hareb (NZL) continued to steamroll through the draw at Merewether, along with Alyssa Spencer (USA), Cannelle Bulard (FRA) and Zahli Kelly (AUS) who will all battle it out in the Quarterfinals. The last heat of the day was a thriller as event top seed Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) staking down fellow CT star Nikki Van Dijk (AUS).
Event directors will return to Merewether Beach tomorrow where competition is likely to resume at 8:30 AM AEDT.