The world’s best surfers will be hoping for plenty of swell and a deluge of sand to kick off the World Surf League pro surfing season at Snapper Rocks this week.
The men’s Quiksilver Pro and the women’s Boost Mobile Pro waiting period begins on Wednesday April 3 and all eyes will be on the state of the famed Superbank, as it recovers after a battering from Cyclone Oma in February. Fortunately, a promising swell forecast and the unique ability to top up the sandbanks via the Tweed River Entrance Sand Bypass system mean we are likely to see a prompt start to competition.
Apart from sand and surf, there are several intriguing narratives swirling around this year’s event, always an important harbinger of world title form. For the first time in 20 years, none of those homegrown heroes known collectively as the Coolly Kids will be competing in the event, following the retirement of world champs Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson last year. Local hopes will be pinned on Jack Freestone in the men’s, returning to the elite World Tour after dropping off in 2018, and Stephanie Gilmore in the women’s, hoping to add to her seven world titles and pass Layne Beachley’s long-standing record.
But the international cast of surf stars will garner plenty of interest, as 11-time world champ Kelly Slater embarks on his final season on tour, two-time world champ John John Florence returns from injury, and reigning two-time champ Gabriel Medina begins his world title defence. Last year’s event winner, and world title runnerup, Julian Wilson, from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, will be hoping to repeat his season-opening form and go one better in the title race of 2019. Young Australian hopefuls to watch in the men’s include Ryan Callinan and Soli Bailey, the first surfer to sport the Indigenous flag on his contest jersey on the world championship tour.
In the women’s, it’s a showdown between world champs Stephanie Gilmore and Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, and a string of challengers, including American Lakey Peterson and Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbon. Two-time world champ Tyler Wright has taken the first half of the year off to recover from Post-Viral Syndrome after contracting Influenza-A in Africa last year.
On Tuesday April 2, the Quiksilver and Boost Mobile Pro Trials will give local, emerging talents the opportunity to compete for a wildcard slot in the main event. And the Juraki Teams Challenge sees the world’s best team up with local Indigenous surfers in a unique pairs’ competition that is always a crowd-pleaser.
There’s also a tsunami of social events around the surfing competition to keep music lovers and night owls happy. The Drop Festival will bring some of the best young bands in the country to Coolangatta for the second year running, on Saturday April 6. This year’s lineup features Angus and Julia Stone, Jungle Giants, Client Liason, Hockey Dad, Alex the Astronaut and Ivey.