The final event of the women's QS, the Port Stephens Toyota NSW Pro QS6,000 has kicked off at the event's backup site of One Mile Beach. It was a massive opening day of competition with Rounds One and Two being completed while Round Three saw six heats run and won.
With a massive southerly swell battering the south-facing Birubi Beach, contest directors were forced to take the event mobile to the more protected One Mile where surfers went to work in the clean, 2-to-4 foot surf.
Fresh off competing at the recent Pe'ahi Challenge, Felicity Palmateer displayed her versatility by taking out the second heat of Round Three. The powerful goofyfooter looked calm in what were much different conditions from what she was tackling less than a week ago. Palmateer went left and right on her scoring rides to win the heat with a two-wave total of 12.80.
"It's pretty cool to be able to make the transition between an event like Pe'ahi and this event in Port Stephens," she said. "It's surreal to think that I was only over there a bit over 72 hours ago. It just feels great to put a heat together and get a win. After surfing a 10-foot board it definitely felt like it was a lot easier to steer a smaller board."
The first of the higher seeds to progress into Round Four was Portuguese competitor Teresa Bonvalot. The World Junior Competitor was eager to get the contest jersey on after having a few events in the sideline and it showed as she ripped into the tough low- tide conditions. Bonvalot progressed with a heat total of 11.25.
"That was hard out there," Bonvalot said. "The wind is up and the tide was low so the waves were small and bumpy. It was okay, though, as I was really keen to compete after a bit of time off from contests. It looks like the waves are going to be incredible over the next few days so it would be great to keep making heats."
Young Central Coast competitor Kirra-Belle Olsson was one of the standouts on the opening day. Olsson's 13-point total (out of a possible 20) came from her trademark backhand attack. She now moves into Round Three and one step closer to coming up against some of her heroes.
"My coach and I were watching conditions before my heat and knew that the rights were offering up the best scoring potential," Olsson said. "It's always nice to get a heat win straight off the bat, it helps build your confidence. This is my first time surfing at this beach and I really like it -- it's beautiful and the waves are fun. I don't think too much about coming up against the Championship Tour surfers, I just try and play my own game."
One of the first internationals to make a big splash on Day 1 was Spain's Lucia Martino. Martino opted to surf her backhand, which allowed her to go more vertical and amass more points. After a slow year of competition, taking a heat win at a QS6,000 was exciting for the natural footer.
"That heat was really good for my confidence," Martino said. "I haven't had the best year competitively so it's great to move further in a 6,000. I'd love to come up against one of the top seeds. This is my first time surfing in this area and it is so beautiful, all of the colors and bays it reminds me of home in Spain."
Fresh off a win at the recent Phillip Island Pro QS1,000, Piper Harrison continued her good form progressing into Round Three in second place. Harrison surfed a smart heat, keeping bust in the tricky low tide conditions.
"That was tough work out there," Harrison said. "I feel good after my win at Phillip Island but you can't take too much confidence from it as every event is different with changing conditions. I'm really excited to be here surfing a 6,000, it's just the second of my career."