It’s official! 2016 champions Matt Wilkinson and Sally Fitzgibbons will hit the water at Merewether this year to defend their 2016 Surfest titles, along with returning superstar Owen Wright and local wildcard entry Jake Sylvester.
For Wright, Surfest 2017 marks a milestone in his career as the first World Surf League competitive outing since he suffered a head trauma during a horrific wipe out in pounding surf at Pipeline on Hawaii’s north shore in December 2015.
But the 27-year-old’s comeback will be hotly contested by a stellar line-up of talent. With a total field of 367 competitors from 28 countries entered in the 2017 Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro and the Anditi Women’s Pro, this year represents the largest field of surfers to ever seek a start at Surfest’s main events.
Surfest chief Warren Smith said he was thrilled at both the number and quality of entries.
“Every year we are blown away when terrific surfers show an interest in the event, but 2017 is shaping up as something special,” he said.
“That’s a record number of entries for us and there will be trials on the weekend before the Maitland Toyota Pro and the Anditi Women’s Pro just to sort the numbers for both events.”
Other competitors in the 2017 Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro include:
> World number eight – Julian Wilson
> World number nine and 2013 Surfest champion – Joel Parkinson
> World number 14 – Adrian Buchan
> World number 19 – Stuart Kennedy
> World number 31 and former dual world junior champion – Jack Freestone.
While world number eight Sally Fitzgibbons will be looking to repeat her 2016 success at Surfest, competition will also be tough in the the Anditi Women’s Pro World Qualifying Series 6000 with entries from top seed world number four Tatiana Weston-Webb (Hawaii) and world number five Joanne DeFay (France) lined up behind her.
Other competitors in the Anditi Women’s Pro include :
> World number six – Stephanie Gilmore
> World number seven – Malia Manuel (Hawaii)
> World number 10 – Laura Enever
> World number 11 – Nikki Van Dijk
> World number 13 – Phillipa Anderson
> World number 14 – Keely Andrew
> World number 17 – Bronte Macaulay
Newly crowned world junior champ and Central Coast local Macy-Jane Callaghan will also compete in both the nib Pro Junior at Surfest and the Anditi Women’s Pro.
“A lot of the surfers that have entered are returning to Newcastle because they enjoy being here and they know if the conditions fire up, Merewether National Surfing Reserve offers some of the best waves on Australia’s east coast,” Smith said.
A number of locals will also throw their hat in the ring this year including:
> Ryan Callinan (Merewether)
> Jesse Adam (Merewether)
> Jackson Baker (Merewether)
> Jake Sylvester (Merewether)
*So is it just us or is there something in the water at Merewether (other than surfing superstars)?