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Newcastle, NSW, Australia, Saturday 16th February, 2013.
AUSTRALIAN surfers blitzed the pack on the penultimate day of the Burton Toyota Pro Junior at Surfest, Newcastle Australia.
The Aussies have claimed six of the eight places left in both the Burton Toyota Pro Junior Men’s and Women’s competitions.
Quality 1-1.5 metre waves provided competitors with big rewards and it was the Aussies who took full advantage of conditions.
Right-handers fanned by a light onshore breeze saw surfers from around the globe charge 200 metre rides from Merewether point to Merewether beach.
Highest score of the day went to local natural-footer and 2011 champion at this event, Jake Sylvester.
In his last year as a junior, Sylvester topped both the individual waves score (9.9) and heat score (17.90) during the day’s first round of 32.
In the round of 16, less than point separated him from heat winner Mitchell Parkinson.
“It was always going to be close out there. Noa Deane can do some crazy airs and can just get a big score out of nothing, so I was throwing my hands up in the air trying to get constant score updates,” he said.
“You can’t worry about other surfer’s scores all the time in your heat but I was a bit nervous and just wanted to get through the heat and make it to the man-on-man heats,” Sylvester said.
Sylvester said he’ll surf at dawn tomorrow morning to warm up for the business end of the competition.
“I’ve got a good early morning routine going here at Merewether and there’s no reason to change it,” Sylvester said.
Other surfers to progress to tomorrow’s man-on-man quarter-finals included Aussies Cooper Chapman, Jesse Horner, Connor O’Leary, Jack Duggan and Mitchell Parkinson.
The international pairing that remain in contention include Italy’s Leonardo Fioravantu and the USA’s Kanoa Igarashi.
Newly crowned New South Wales Men’s Open Champion Connor O’Leary is another surfer in his last year of the junior ranks. Coincidentally, his mother Akemi was a competitor in Surfest in 1988, and she was at Merewether today to cheer her son on.
O’Leary, who took the New South Wales Open Championship last Sunday at Sandshoes just south of his home break – and was rewarded with a wild card into next week’s 6-Star Burton Toyota Pro at Merewether beach for his effort – secured the highest score (15.50) during the round of 16.
“There were maybe two or three sets at the start of the heat and I got a good score on the board early,” the Cronulla-based goofy-foot said.
“I am looking forward to the man-on-man heats,” he said.
“You don’t have to do all the hassling you have to do in the four-man heats and getting priority means you can focus,” he said.
Another surfer looking forward to the man-on-man heats is Italian Leonardo Fioravantu.
“I love man-on-man heats. I have done a bunch of them and I am a big fan of them,” he said.
Fioravantu has been getting asked a lot of questions about the surf in Italy by his fellow competitors.
“It’s not very consistent. It doesn’t get good often but when it does it can be a lot of fun,” he said.
Mitchell Parkinson – whose cousin Joel surfs at Merewether next week in his first Association of Surfing Professional’s competition event since winning the world crown – is doing it tougher than most to progress through his heats because he came into this event carrying an ankle injury.
“It was a pretty tough heat just like every heat I’ve had here,” Parkinson said.
“All the guys are surfing so well. I am amazed I am getting through because I have still got that injury and it’s not getting any better,” Parkinson said.
“Making it through to the quarters of a Pro Junior is a new personal best for me and considering I have an injury I guess it could be a sign of good things to come for the year ahead,” he said.
In the Burton Toyota Pro Junior women’s contest, ASP world junior champion Nikki Van Dijk (AUST) was a convincing winner in the rounds of 32 and 16. She posted the highest score (17.25) in the round of 32.
Van Dijk said even though conditions had changed, she still enjoyed the heat.
“I was a bit wobbly. It’s not as great as it was, but there’s still waves out there,” she said.
“There was a bit of hassling but I still had fun,” she said.
The champion said she too was looking forward to tomorrow’s heats of just two surfers.
“I am looking forward to the two surfer heats because you can pick off any wave when you have priority. That whole system really works,” Van Dijk said.
Fellow Aussie Stephanie Single from Lennox Head in New South Wales was outstanding in the round of 16, racking up that round’s highest score (17).
Aussie women to progress to tomorrow’s quarter-finals include Ellie Brooks, Bronte Macaulay, Ellie-Jean Coffey, Brodie Doyle. Internationals that remain in contention to claim the trophy include Canelle Bulard (REU), Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW).
Action recommences tomorrow morning at 7.30am with the junior women’s quarter-finals.
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.