Newcastle, NSW/Australia (Friday, February 21, 2014) – After going on hold and waiting for the predicted rise to swell for the majority of the day, at 2:30pm the ASP 6-Star QS Burton Toyota Pro was called on to run the first six heats of Round 3. The swell is expected to increase in size and quality overnight, setting the stage for an exciting finals weekend tomorrow and Sunday.
Nathan Hedge (AUS) posted an impressive win at the Burton Toyota Pro today, using lightning fast backhand carves and snaps to power through the small surf and outscore his younger counterparts. Gold Coast surfer Brent Dorrington (AUS) advanced in 2nd position with Jack Freestone (AUS) and Conner Coffin (USA) eliminated in 3rd and 4th place.
“It feels really good to get a win over a couple of those young guns,” Hedge said. “I’m a lot fitter and sharper than I used to be and I can use my experience from all my years on tour to my advantage. I just love competing. I love coming to Newcastle, I was reminiscing about coming here when I was 15 or 16 years old for this event. Merewether is such an iconic spot in Australian surfing, I’m wrapped to be here and I want to put in a really good performance.”
Jesse Mendes (BRA), winner of the Surfest Newcastle Pro Junior in 2012 continues to impress at Merewether, earning an 8.33 (out of a possible 10) and a 7.87 to claim a win in one of the hardest heats of the event thus far. Mendes eliminated 2012 ASP World Champion and reigning Burton Toyota Pro champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Hawaiian powerhouse Ezekiel Lau (HAW), while Beyrick De Vries (ZAF) advanced in 2nd position.
“To take out one of the world’s best surfers and someone I’ve looked up to my whole life feels incredible,” Mendes said. “It was a tough heat in tough conditions, so I feel really blessed. It’s amazing to get first in that one, everyone was surfing really well and getting good scores. I’m here to do my best and get some points toward qualifying for the WCT next year.”
Dion Atkinson (Seaford, SA/AUS), 2014 ASP World Championship Tour rookie clocked the day’s highest single wave score in the opening minute of his Round 3 heat today – 9.57 (out of a possible 10). Atkinson is renowned for his speed and power and today he lit up the rock break at Merewether, blasting explosive tuns all the way to the shore.
“I love coming to Newcastle!” Atkinson said. “We stay with one of the guys from the Lawler Group, who supports this event and it feels like a second home to me. I love the wave here, it’s a little right hand reef break similar to the waves at home in South Australia. It’s been a strange year for me, I don’t know how many 9-point-rides I’ve had in my career, but this year in three events I’ve had 9s in all my heats which feels really good. It’s great to be posting scores and is a confidence booster going into my first ever WCT event at Snapper. It’s great to get dialled in and get my head in the right zone.”
Merewether’s own Jake Sylvester (AUS) had the crowds on the cliffs on their feet as he took out the final heat of the day and advanced into the next round where he’ll be one of just 24 surfers left in the draw. Sylvester made every wave count, unloading powerful snaps right in the pocket of the wave, and once he hit the front he only built on his lead, leaving the others to fight for 2nd position.
“Last week in Manly was the first time I’ve ever made the Round of 24 at a 6-Star QS and I’ve done it again here,” Sylvester said. “Now that I know I can get there I want to use it as a benchmark and get there or better at all the events from now on. The conditions in that heat are pretty much what I’ve been surfing everyday for the past three months, it’s fun, but it can be hard to know what spot to sit in. It’s good to know what’s going on out there.”
Joel Parkinson, the event No. 1 seed was eliminated in Round 3 Heat 2 at the Burton Toyota Pro today. Parkinson struggled in the smaller inconsistent waves, but on occasions during the heat flared with some brilliant turns and despite losing he appears well ready for the ASP World Championship season opening event on the Gold Coast next week.
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