Power, Punts and Passion
During my stay here in Australia I was lucky enough to attend Newcastle’s iconic annual Surfest…and it was a good one! With two 6-Star WQS events, the men’s Burton Toyota Pro and the Hunter Ports Women’s Classic, Surfest certainly attracted some of the best of the surfing world. After being crowned Surfest 2013 Champion, Joel Parkinson returned to defend his title along with the likes of WCT’s Adriano De Souza. as well as World Tour hopefuls and Merewether local hero’s Ryan Callinan and Jake Sylvester. And the women…well we were in for a treat with 11 out of 17 of the WCT’s women attending, only a slight disappointment with Sally Fitzgibbons dropping out last minute due to an injury.
With small conditions in the early part of the week, both the men’s and the women’s events saw major upsets in the early rounds, losing both Steph Gilmore, and Joel Parkinson. But this didn’t dampen any spirits as surf fans flocked to Merewether beach in increasing numbers to watch the week of competition unfold.
Although last year’s winner, Australia’s Dimity Stoyle, was knocked out in the Quarter Final by Sage Erickson she still displayed her trademark powerful surfing, and throughout the competition looked like a real contender for the title.
Another standout performance was Brazils self-funded Silvana Lima, with her progressive style and damn near landing an air reverse in one of her heats, [a rare manoeuvre to be attempted in women’s competition even at WCT level]. Silvana is an interesting story in her own right; during her World Title bid in 2012, she suffered a knee injury early in the season and was forced to take the rest of the season off to rehabilitate. Receiving an injury wildcard in 2013, Silvana had to pay her own tour costs after being dropped by all her sponsors. She failed to requalify for the 2014 season, not due to poor results, but because of the amount of results she was able to collect due to lack of funding. This lead to the innovative project Silvana Free; rather than seeking conventional sponsorship from apparel brands looking for athlete come bikini models, Silvana is asking us, the surf fans, to help raise the funds for her 2014 tour bid. Check out Silvana Free for more information.
But for me, [and clearly the judges], it was the Hawaiians who really shone, with Malia Manuel, Nage Melamand, and Alessa Quizon showcasing consistant power and style not only in the competition but also during freesurfing sessions between heats. The exciting all-Hawaiian Final resulted in Malia Manuel being crowned the Hunter Port Women’s Classic Champion, with Alessa Quizon in a worthy second place.
It was fantastic to see the support for the Womens event match that of the Men’s. The beach was swarming with the next generation of female surfers all chasing down photos and signatures of their hero’s.
As for the Men’s Burton Toyota Pro, it was non-stop action. Losing local aerialist Ryan Callinan in the early rounds, hopes of a home win were finally dashed by Guadeloupe’s Charles Martin, taking out Merewether’s other local hopeful Jake Sylvester in Round of 16 by only 1.34 points. But it was Port Macquarie’s Matt Banting’s day; just scraping through the Quarter Final against New Zealand’s Billy Stairmand, the 19 year old went on to a convincing win in the Semi-Finals against Brazil’s WCT Surfer Adriano De Souza. It all came down the Final showdown against competition veteran Nathan “The Hog” Hedge, known for his power and precision, but it was the progressive surfing of Matt Banting that won out. Pulling out all the stops with big airs and sharp turns, Banting threw down two nine point rides, taking the Burton Toyota Pro Title in style!
All in all it was an incredible week, with explosive surfing, even in the sometimes average conditions, and a great turnout of spectators to watch it all go down.
Newcastles surfing legend Mark Richard [aka “MR” or “The Wounded Seagull”] was one of the founding members of Surfest. Now in its 29th year, Surfest is Australia’s largest surf festival. For more information about the event check out Surfest.
All photos copyright of SaltyLips’ resident photographer, Nathan Bloemers.