The predicted south-east swell rolled into Noosa overnight, and dawn rose to a superb lineup of waves.
The Halse Lodge Women’s Open was the first to get wet, and the young ladies battled the outgoing tide. Sensational waves were breaking through, but with a tricky outside section, many got caught unawares by the folding lip. Hawaiian Makoa Ah Sam seemed to have the advantage of a familiarity of bigger waves, and surfed well to take the first heat, and Mieke Van der Merwe did well to take second, just behind Olivia Donnelly, to progress to round three.
The third and final heat saw a buzzer-beating final wave for Japan’s Manami Sakuma move from fourth to first, bumping Laure Mayer back to second, both girls moving through to round three.
The more senior gents came next, the Noosa Civic Men’s 65 & Over unable to contain their excitement as they paddled out. Earl Page was a familiar name in the list of first place-getters, backed up by Ron Greene. A late charge from George Watt secured his passage to the repechage final and Peter Chapman and the ever-present Bruce Channon made up the numbers.
Round three of the Kennards Hire Men’s 60 & Over also saw regular festival finalists and semi-finalists progressing, Eric Walker, defending champion Albie Curtis and Greg Moir all coming up with the numbers.
Back to the Women’s Open for round three, and Kirra Seale was simply untouchable. A flawless heat saw her gain an uncatchable lead that was held throughout. Nava Young, and the five-month-old she was carrying in her tummy, surfed to a brilliant first, closely followed by a very impressive Kirra Molnar, the young Noosa shortboarder only converting to longboards a couple of years ago. Kathryn Hughes did well to stave off the majority of the field, but Soleil Errico was just too strong, Hughes placing a close second.
While the waves may well have been many’s idea of perfection, this was not so for the Golden Breed Noseriders. A strong offshore wind had developed, and the fast waves offered little opportunity for significant noseriding. Despite this, in an event that sees the top scores across the division advancing, as opposed to the individual heat winners, Dane Pioli somehow mustered a staggering 67 seconds of tip time, leaving the remainder of the field scrabbling for the second, third and fourth berths in Saturday’s final. With the benchmark set at 30 seconds, the division’s only remaining girl, Soleil Errico came within a whisker of progressing, just five seconds off the pace. When the scores were tallied, it would be Kaimana Takayama, Alex Bullpitt and Noosa’s nosriding maestro Jai Lee joining Pioli in the final.
Rusty Miller surfed far below his 74 years in the Magoo Memorial 70 & Over Open, winning the first heat without dispute, while Californian shaper, Otis Sistrunk narrowly missed a win despite some incredible waves ridden, still advancing to the final, but giving the heat win to Bob Smith
The semi-final of the New Age Caravans Logger Pro showcased exactly why it is the festival blue ribbon event, but upsets abound, with former world champion Josh Constable failing to progress, and Matt Chojnacki also missing the mark.
On the back of yesterday’s perfect ten, Kaniela Stewart paddled out a firm favourite, unable to match round one’s double digits, but definitively proving that it was no fluke. Round four would whittle things down further later in the day.
With waves still pumping and the sun shining, semi-final two saw the displacement of Constable. A huge set rolled in and within the first three minutes, the stage was set. Zye Norris pulled into a long, funnelling barrel, unheard of at First Point, coming out and noseriding his way to the beach for a high 8.5 score, just ahead of Kaniela Stewart, Dane Wilson and Constable. And then came a lull. For over ten minutes, not a wave was ridden. In the dying seconds, the heat came alive once more. Matt Chojnacki surfed with classic style, Dane Wilson charged hard, performing flawless drop-knee cutbacks, Constable did all he could, but a strong second wave gave Norris the victory, Wilson doing just enough to fill the last spot in the final, joining Norris, Nic Jones and Kaniela Stewart.
With waves predicted to drop over the next couple of days, the decision came from contest director Alan Atkins to cram the final into the dying light of the afternoon to take advantage of the sustained swell.
In the meantime, while the Loggers were taking a well-earned rest, the Salt Magazine Men’s 55 & Over took to the water. Wally Allan showed local knowledge, waiting patiently for set waves, while Chris Cox’s enthusiasm gave him some excellent scores. Mark Bain was also in fine form and, despite a tussle for the vital third spot with Rod Dale and George Haskas, the three progressed to fill the final remaining spots in the final.
The Repechage of the Halse Lodge Women’s Open was a tough-won battle, but it was experience that won out. Nava Young, Sierra Lerback and Soleil Errico changed places on numerous occasions, but the three advanced to the final definitively, ahead of Tully White, Lily Ellis and Tia Deighton.
And so began the show-stopper. All eyes were focused on First Point as the final of the New Age Caravans Logger Pro paddled out. Kaniela Stewart, the only Hawaiian amongst three locals. All worthy of the crown, the four surfed in parallel, answering the advances of each other with style and skill. Nic Jones blended performance and talent, Kaniela again masterful on the nose, Zye surfed with his distinctly smooth style, while Dane was impeccable in his drop-knee turns once more. High sevens and low eights were achieved and the race ran too close to call. Zye Norris concluded his heat with a very strong ride, while Kaniela and Dane took the following waves with big scores both. Nic Jones was an example of textbook competition surfing; but who would win? That would be announced on Saturday, the final result a closely-guarded secret of the judges until presentation night on Saturday.
IN Noosa Magazine hosted the launch of their Autumn magazine in the XXXX Summer Beach Bar, presenting a superb fashion parade of local designers and outlets on the Zinc Stage. A packed house enjoyed sunsets drinks, and a host of models, male, female, young and more mature, displayed a diverse and eclectic range of fabulous garments.
Last in the water were the semi-finals of the Men’s Open and the Sun & Earth Women’s 35 & Over.
Local lad Nic Brewer surfed with experience beyond his years, excellent wave selection allowing him to advance narrowly in third over Kai Takayama, while Kevin Holt performed admirably for the win in the first heat. In the second, Nic Jones somehow managed to muster the stamina for a dynamite win over John Paul Keleopaa and Matt Mulder, overseas competitors Connor Griffiths from the UK, and American Hudson Ritchie unable to find a wave of consequence.
To wrap up the day, Peppie Simpson was once more on form, surfing in a division over 20 years her junior, though Kristy Quirk edged her out for the heat win. Likewise in heat two, with Kate Perry narrowly relinquishing lead and win to Kate Dwyer, Katsuki Takahashi taking the final berth in the final.
It was a day of surfing that even made the hordes of spectators exhausted, cheering along their favourite participants and witnessing absolute world-class wave-riding. Fortunately, a full-stocked bar and the smooth sounds of Ali Shield, the Dreggs and Sal Wonder eased us all into an early evening, well-deserved for surfers and a truly delightful way to spend out 6th Day of Pure Stoke.