Yago Dora and Johanne Defay have won the 2016 Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro and Anditi Women's Pro, respectively. The WSL Qualifying Series (QS) 6,000 events run in conjunction with Newcastle Surfest and were completed today in wind-affected, 3-to-4 foot waves at Merewether Beach.
Young Brazilian Yago Dora was a standout all event, posting massive heat totals on his way to the Final with his trademark fins-free and aerial surfing. Dora came up against countryman Jesse Mendes in the last battle, and there were bound to be fireworks from the two goofyfoot, progression specialists.
As with heats earlier in the event, Dora started conservatively to get in a rhythm and, once he was comfortable, began to unleash. The Final was no exception, as he threw some incredible airs on big sections earning an excellent 8.83 (out of a possible 10) single wave score. True to previous heats, once feeling comfortable, he launched off a big end section to pull a mammoth full rotation, air-reverse to earn the only perfect 10-point ride of the event. His heat total of 18.83 (out of a possible 10) was the highest of the entire event, as well.
"I don't think it has really sunk in yet," Dora said. "Having that Final with Jesse was funny because the last time we surfed against each other he smashed me, so it was awesome to get one back on him, he is a really good friend. This was the most focused I have been for an event."
Dora isn't generally known for his competitive prowess and is more noted for his incredible appearances in free-surfing movies. The first QS6,000 of the year saw a shift in focus for Dora, as he looks toward qualifying for the elite Championship Tour (CT).
"I was going to bed early and eating well and taking it all seriously so to see all of that pay off is awesome," he said. "The conditions the last few days were perfect for me, which was good. I just want to get to Manly now and keep surfing heats and get a roll on."
Mendes, meanwhile, cruised through the contest, notching up strong scores with solid performances. In the Final, however, he was unable to find a score of consequence, while Dora went on to dominate. Although it wasn't the result Mendes might have liked, he was gracious in defeat and stoked to see his friend take the biggest result of his career.
"It was fun to battle my childhood friend in the Final," Mendes said. "We have had some good heats in the past with me winning the last one so it was his turn. I feel like I surfed a good event but had a final where everything went Yago's way and nothing my way. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing as I feel like this event was a positive one form me."
The Anditi Women's Pro Final saw two of the event's underdogs in France's Johanne Defay and Kiwi Paige Hareb battle it out at Merewether. With the two having to discard of some of the sport's biggest names on their way to the Final it was always going to be a spectacle.
Their final battle was a bit of a one-sided affair. Defay came out of the gates early to post a 7.50 single-wave score and then back it up with an incredible 9.23 excellent wave for a heat total of 16.23. Her powerful, drawn-out forehand turns were a great indication of why Defay finished fifth in the world in 2016. Although she won the Fiji Pro in 2016, this was the first-ever QS event win of Defay's career.
"I feel so great with this win," Defay said. "The waves were super tricky today so I had to be really onto where the waves were. I have never won a QS event before so to win the first one of the season is amazing. I have had a few close calls with re-qualifying in the past so this result will mean I can relax a little. I feel really comfortable in Newcastle and always enjoy it, now it is even more special to me."
Being put in a combination situation (needing two new scores) early in the Final, Hareb never gave up, building on her scores until the last minute of the heat. Although she came just short of the win, she was positive about the way she surfed the event.
"That Final definitely didn't go to plan but it was good to be in it," Hareb said. "Making it through the draw here was a big deal for me as there were some massive names competing so getting second is great. We have Manly next week so I'll see if I can back it up there."