Surfest Newcastle ran through the longest day of competition for the week to take advantage of the clean and punchy three foot (1.5 meter) surf on offer. The morning saw two rounds of the ASP 6-Star Qualifying Series Burton Toyota Pro completed leaving just 16 surfers left in contention for the coveted Mark Richards trophy. The afternoon saw the ASP 6-Star QS Hunter Ports Women's Classic run through Round 5 and the Quarterfinals, setting the stage for an exciting Finals day tomorrow.
Cahill Bell-Warren (Torquay, VIC/AUS) is having a breakthrough event at the Burton Toyota Pro, with solid rail surfing seeing him continue to progress through the rounds. Before this event Bell-Warren hadn't progressed through the second round at an ASP 6-Star QS event and now he finds himself in the final 16 and one heat away from the Quarterfinals.
"I feel pretty amazing right now," Bell-Warren said. "I've had some good results in 4-Stars in the past, but never on a stage like a 6-Star. To be into the final 16 surfers and to be feeling as good as I am - I couldn't be much happier. I have a new found sense of calm. I've been training out of the Muay Thai gym in Geelong and it's taught me a lot about self control and being calm under pressure. I've seen the way some of my mates prepare for fights and I'm trying to prepare the same for my surfing and surf each heat like it could be my last."
Granger Larsen (HAW) laid down some solid carves in his Round 4 heat win today and will now match-up against Bell-Warren tomorrow morning for a spot in the Quarterfinals. Larsen has been on the verge of Samsung Galaxy ASP Men's World Championship Tour qualification for the last few years, a solid result on tomorrow's final day would be the ideal start to 2014 for the young Hawaiian.
"I'm really hungry for the win, hopefully I can keep it going," Larsen said. "I definitely want to get through the next heat and into the Quarterfinals, there's about 600 more points on offer, but I'm really enjoying this event. The surf has been small, but in Manly I had the worst heat I've ever had, so to be here and winning heats in fun waves is great."
Tomas Hermes (BRA) went wild in his Round 4 heat at the Burton Toyota Pro today, surfing faster and harder than the rest and posting both the highest single wave score and highest two wave heat total of the event thus far - 9.67 (out of a possible 10) and 18.67 (out of a possible 20). Hermes unloaded powerful and precise turns and is looking good for another solid result after finishing equal 3rd at last week's ASP 6-Star QS in Manly.
"That's my best ever ASP heat!" Hermes said. "I had two 9-point-rides and I'm feeling so good. I really want to qualify for the WCT and I want to keep going through in this event. My board is so amazing, it felt so fast out there, I'm excited for the final day tomorrow."
Sage Erickson (USA) has a great record here at the Hunter Ports Women's Classic reaching the Quarterfinals and Semifinals over the past two years, and today she matched-up against the form surfer of this year's event, and reigning event champion Dimity Stoyle (AUS). Stoyle had been posting excellent scores all event, but Erickson didn't flinch and nailed an 8.87 (out of a possible 10) for an excellent wave with a mix of smooth and sharp turns right at the start of the heat. Stoyle was left searching for a big score that never came and was eliminated, finishing equal 5th place, while Erickson advanced into the Semifinals.
"Going into that Quarterfinal with Dimity (Stoyle), I knew it was going to be a tough one," Erickson said. "She's last year's champion and in her last few heats she was getting high 8s and 9s. I knew I had to work really hard and paying attention to the change in conditions really helped me get the win. The QS is so competitive now, even the first round is really hard at these events. I fell off the WCT last year so this year I'm focusing on getting better at surfing, there's a level you need to be at to be on the WCT and I'm working hard to get to that level and I think I'm close."
Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) took out the last heat of the day and eliminated the last Australian standing in the Hunter Ports Women's Classic, Laura Enever (Narrabeen, NSW/AUS). Buitendag has been posting big scores with solid backhand vertical turns all event, and edged out Enever by less than a point to secure a Semifinal berth against Alessa Quizon (HAW).
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