Super Saturday Newcastle Surfest bought with it an increase in swell, massive crowds and non-stop action for day 6 of competition. The quarterfinalists have been decided for both the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro and the Anditi Women's Pro as Merewether served up pumping 4-to-5 foot waves for some of the world's best surfers.
Brazilian aerial sensation Yago Dora continued his successful run at Merewether, putting himself one heat closer to the best result of his career. As the swell began to pulse, Dora entertained the crowds with an incredible display of power and progressive surfing. His excellent heat total of 18.33 (out of a possible 20) left his opponent, Tanner Gudauskas, in a combination situation (needing two new scores) and was the second-highest tally of the event so far.
"The waves got really good for that heat, it was non-stop from the start," Dora said. "When I got that 8-point ride early my confidence built and I just wanted to keep building on it, which is what I did. I have made it to a quarterfinals in a QS6,000 before so I'm hoping this event can be my best-ever result."
Mitch Coleborn, meanwhile, also put on a show Saturday. The Australian Qualifying Series (QS) warrior has said that he's taking a new approach to competing in 2017, and so far, it's paying dividends. In Saturday's solid surf, the goofyfoot powerhouse booked himself a spot in the Quarterfinals. As the waves began to pump, Coleborn kicked off his heat with an 8.77 (out of a possible 10) for a series of huge front-side gaffs. He then followed it up with another excellent 8.93 for his heat total of 17.70. His opponent, Western Australia's Jacob Willcox, found himself in combination, which left Coleborn to enjoy the grinding lefts that were pouring through the lineup.
"I can't remember anytime in the last six months where I have had a surf as fun as that," Coleborn said. "I always try and keep my surfing on the face of the wave for the first few waves just to get an idea of what the judges are looking for. If you do that and get solid scores it's a real bonus because you can sort of have fun once your scores are in. Watching the heats before mine got me pretty pumped, the waves were pumping and the surfing was crazy, especially Yago."
In 2016, Leonardo Fioravanti had a breakthrough year with a number of second-place finishes at QS6,000 events, the first of which was at the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro. Although the young Italian found runner-up finishes frustrating, they actually set him up to qualify for the elite Championship Tour (CT). Tomorrow, on finals day, Fioravanti will get his opportunity to make amends and take the top spot on the podium.
"Every contest I go in, I want to win," Fioravanti said. "Last year I came really close so it would be awesome to go one step further this year. Tomorrow I will have my chance to go that step further in the finals so I'm stoked. The waves are pumping today which is sick. Last year was really good here so it is good to see Newcastle turn on again for this event."
Among the women at the Anditi Women's Pro Saturday, reigning event Champion and CT veteran Sally Fitzgibbons lost her opportunity to win the event back-to-back, at the hands of current Junior World Champion Macy Callaghan. As the swell began to max out on the contest bank, both competitors opted to move to the Point, which was offering up long, righthand walls. Fitzgibbons was in good rhythm but struggled to find a big score, which left Callaghan to land a knockout blow and take control of the heat. Although some might see this result as an upset, Callaghan saw it as inevitable.
"My plan was to make it to at least the Quarterfinals no matter what," Callaghan said. "I have had a fair bit of experience surfing out on the point so when we moved up there I was pretty comfortable. It was daunting coming up against Sally, she is an amazing surfer, so it feels great to win against her."
But not every top-ranked surfer went down on Saturday. Anditi's No. 1 seed, CT surfer Tatiana Weston-Webb, had her work cut out for her in Round Five when she came up against Brazil's Silvana Lima, a veteran CT surfer who's back on tour in 2017. Lima's aggression at the lip earned her a heat total of 13.84, just short of Weston-Webb's 14.77. The lefthanders suited the style and grace of Weston-Webb, who is now the clear event favorite after her fellow CT heavyweights, Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons, went down.
"The waves were so fun in that heat," Weston-Webb said. "Having fun waves in a heat always makes it a better experience. That was pretty intense as Silvana was really bringing it. It was cool to surf against Silvana, as she has been a massive inspiration to me and is an incredibly determined competitor. I hope the waves continue to pump for finals day."