Over 100 of the world's best female surfers have arrived in Port Stephens, Australia, ahead of the most important women's Qualifying Series showdown of the season, the Port Stephens Toyota NSW Pro. The four-day QS6,000 will run at the stunning Birubi Beach and will decide the lineup for the 2018 elite Championship Tour .
WSL Deputy Commissioner Jessi Miley-Dyer was once a member of the Championship Tour and knows first hand the dedication and hard work that is involved in qualifying. The former World Junior Champion is keeping a close eye on this major event and who will push deep into the draw and onto next year's ‘Dream Tour.'
"This is the last event on the QS calendar so it's super important in terms of points and last-ditch qualification efforts," Miley Dyer said. "There's a few surfers who have their career on the line, so for them, this is going to be a very stressful week. We also have the opportunity to witness new Australian talent come through the ranks on the world stage in the beginning of their careers."
With the top six from the QS rankings elevating to the CT, there are a number of scenarios and situations that need to play out for each competitor hoping to make the jump. With a small amount of points separating the top 20, there is a number of surfers with a shot at elevation.
"As always, the talent pool on the women's side is excellent and I'm excited to see who gets the final slots for the 2018 CT," Miley-Dyer continued. "The last qualifying spot seems to be quite open at this point, and there are a few women like Paige Hareb, Macy Callaghan and Philippa Anderson on the cusp of getting it. It should be an exciting battle and I can't wait to see who will get it done."
Since winning the World Junior Championship in Kiama earlier this year, 17-year-old Macy Callaghan has had her attention focused on one thing, qualifying for the CT. After a third-place finish last week in Japan, the Central Coast standout has moved to 10th on the QS rankings and is one solid result away from achieving her dreams.
"I'm trying not to think about rankings or any of that coming into this event," Callaghan said. "It is still in the back of my mind because of all of the talk and hype but I'm trying to ignore it and just focus on the event. I know that this event was close to being canceled so the fact that all of the partners teamed up to save this event is amazing. All of that effort and hard work is so good for women's surfing -- we're all so thankful."
Philippa Anderson has had plenty of hard luck on the QS in the past. The Novocastrian has missed the qualification cut off six years in a row. After a number of career-best results in 2017, Anderson is as close as she's ever been to stepping on to the CT. With the biggest event of her career taking place 20 minutes from her house, Anderson is as confident as she's ever been about achieving her life long goal.
"I've been trying to get onto the CT for six years now so it is really weird to know that the next four days will dictate whether or not I achieve that goal," Anderson said. "It definitely is a make-or-break event for me but I just want to know that I am doing my best and trying 110 percent and if the result doesn't come my way I'll know that I tried my best. Birubi is a pretty tricky wave to surf so having the experience out here that I do will definitely play to my advantage. It looks like we are going to have great waves this event so I can't wait kick off."
Sitting at fifth on the QS rankings with an excellent chance of qualifying is American sensation Caroline Marks. The 16-year-old is the only competitor inside the QS top 10 who has never been on the Championship Tour. After a successful 2017 season, Marks looks to be the first guaranteed CT rookie for 2018.
"I'm just treating this event like any other contest," Marks said. "I'm just heading into it with the plan of making as many heats as I can. This year has been the best of my life, I've been having so much fun. I've been working with a new coach, making sure I'm having fun and enjoying time with my family and it seems to be reflecting positively in my results. This is my first time in this area and it's amazing. The beaches are so beautiful and I can't wait to surf a new wave during the contest."