REIGNING world surfing champions Joel Parkinson and Stephanie Gilmore will commence their 2013 competitive surfing campaigns at the Burton Toyota Surfest at Merewether beach in Newcastle.
In a massive boost for both the Burton Toyota Open and the Hunter Ports Women’s Classic, the Aussie duo have confirmed they will be certain starters in the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) 6-Star events.
Minister for Tourism and Major Events, George Souris, said securing Joel Parkinson and Stephanie Gilmore to compete at Surfest is a major coup for the event and for New South Wales.
“To have Australia’s Parkinson and Gilmore competing in Newcastle, fresh from their ASP World Title wins, is a testament to the strength and ongoing success of Surfest.
“I encourage all surfing fans to visit Surfest and see the world-class competition in action at Newcastle’s beaches,” Mr Souris said.
Parkinson says he will be aiming to have his name etched onto the prestigious Mark Richards trophy and join the seven other world champion surfers who have claimed the trophy at the Newcastle event – including Mick Fanning (three times), Tom Carroll (twice), Mark Occhilupo (twice), Kelly Sater, Tom Curren, Damien Hardman and Barton Lynch.
Fresh from securing his maiden ASP world title in Hawaii last month, the 31-year-old natural footer’s participation in the US$185 000 competition will be his first time in the coloured singlet in 2013.
“Parko” was runner-up four times in his career before ending Kelly Slater’s shot at a 12th world title and defeating fellow Aussie Josh Kerr during the final of Pipe Masters on Hawaii’s north shore in one of the most phenomenal days in pro surfing history.
The affable and popular Queenslander said he was looking forward to returning to Newcastle where he went into the 2012 competition as the number two seed behind West Aussie Taj Burrow.
“I’m really happy to be heading back to Newcastle again this year for the Burton Toyota Pro. Ever since I was a junior I’ve always enjoyed heading down to Newy.
“There’s such a good vibe about the contest. You’re always made to feel so welcome by the people of Newcastle, and it’s always great to honour MR by turning up and surfing in the contest.
“The scheduling is a little different this year with Newcastle falling before the Quiksilver Pro at Snapper, so the Newy contest will be the perfect warm up for me going into Snapper.
“I hope Merewether turns it on and we get some great waves,” Parkinson said.
Five-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore is no stranger to Surfest.
The natural-footer – who turns 25 in a week’s time (29th January) – won a Surfest crown in 2008 whilst reigning world champion following her explosive 2007 rookie year on the world surfing tour.
In 2013, Gilmore is focused on racking up another world crown to edge her closer to the seven won by Aussie superstar Layne Beachley.
Burton Toyota’s Kim Burton said having Parkinson and Gilmore participate at Surfest was guaranteed to focus the surfing world’s interest on Newcastle.
“As long-term supporters and sponsors of Surfest, Burton Toyota are thrilled Joel and Stephanie will be competing in Newcastle. Both are accomplished surfers and wonderful ambassadors for surfing. This is great for Newcastle,” he said.
“Parko’s world title win would have to be one of the most fought for, hoped for and popular wins in professional surfing hostory.
“He’s popular with surfers everywhere and there’ll be plenty of his fans turn up to Merewether to see him in action.
“He is a great role model for young surfers in showing what determination and goal focus can achieve.
“He kept bouncing back from his runner-up positions and through hard work and consistency he got to join one of the most elite sporting clubs in the world,” Mr Burton said.
The full field of competitors will be known to organisers on January 23.
For further information call Warren Smith on 0412127525.
About the 2013 Surfest Newcastle Australia
The 2013 Surfest Newcastle Australia features the Burton Toyota Pro (Men’s ASP 6-Star) and the Hunter Ports Women’s Classic (Women’s ASP 6-Star), along with eight supporting events. The event is made possible with the support of Burton Toyota, the Hunter Sports Sports Group, Newcastle City Council and the NSW Government through Destination NSW. Surfest Newcastle Australia is conducted over 12 days from February 13-24 at Merewether beach, a recognised Australian National Surfing Reserve. Merewether is home to festival patron and Australia’s most accomplished men’s world professional surfing champion, four-time world champion Mark Richards (1979-82) and presents the winner a trophy in his likeness. 2013 marks the festival’s 28th year and with over 800 national and international competitors, Surfest Newcastle Australia is the largest festival of surfing in the southern hemisphere. Get up-to-the minute updates, photos and interviews, as well as the program of events at surfest.com or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.