The Burton Automotive Pro is off to an excellent start in a landmark 30th year anniversary running in the surf rich region of Newcastle, NSW Australia. Situated at Merewether Beach, the cultivating ground for many former great Australian surfers including four-time World Surf League (WSL) World Champion Mark Richards along with other greats the likes of Nicky Wood, Matt Hoy, Simon Law and Luke Egan, the men's Qualifying Series QS6000 division began in wind swept high performance 3-foot surf that provided good sections for some power packed performances.
While Merewether boasts great champions of the past, there's presently no shortage of excellent surfers today. Jake Sylvester flew the flag for the locals with strong and convincing heat win in the second heat of the day. Sylvester defeated emerging 17-year-old USA surfer Kanoa Igarashi with both surfers advancing to Round 2.
"My knowledge of the waves here helps for sure and mid-heat I was able to find an ideal wave that really made the difference," Sylvester said, referring to a wave that scored him a 7.83 which he milked for all it was worth before stepping off onto the sand.
"I caught more waves than I intended to and that wasn't part of the plan, but the conditions meant a good wave would score well. I haven't been surfing much here over summer as the waves have been terrible until the last week."
Parker Coffin (USA/Cal) opened the event with an impressive display of precision driven power surfing. Coffin was selective, catching just the required two waves in the 25 minute heat, but he made certain they were keepers scoring an opening 7.83 ride followed by an excellent 9-point-ride to take the highest scoring heat win of the day over Hunter Business Boardriders Pro Junior event champion Deivid Silva (BRA).
A number of Brazilian surfers reveled in today's beachbreak conditions. Round 1 heat winners from Brazil included Ian Gouveia, Krystian Kymerson, Flavio Nakagima, Hizunome Bettero, Thiago Camarao and Pedro Henrique.
Today's morning press conference was a star studded affair with Mark Richards and 2012 World Champion and event No. 1 seed Joel Parkinson. Surfest is one of Parkinson's favorite events on the WSL Calendar. He took the event title back in 2013 and wants it back this year.
"I love Newcastle, there's great surf everywhere here and this is an ideal event for me to warm up my competitive act," said Parkinson. "I'm here to win, it's a great event and to win in the 30th year would be special so I'll give it everything."
A big swell is forecast from Thursday through to the Finals on the weekend and Mark Richards predicts this could be one of the best ever Burton Automotive Pro's.
"If it's 10 feet plus and breaking way out on the second and third reef then it will be amazing to watch these guys perform in some very serious surf - Let's hope the forecast's are correct!"