Jackson Baker and Kobie Enright have taken impressive victories at the Port Stephens Pro presented by Mad Mex, the second event of the 2021 World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS). The three-day event saw an array of conditions with competition wrapping up in fun, two-to-three foot waves at One Mile Beach.
Fresh off a fifth-place finish at the recent Great Lakes Pro, Jackson Baker came into the Port Stephens QS1,000 with one thing in mind – winning. With a previous record of three QS wins from three QS finals, odds suggested that all the Novacastian powerhouse had to do was make it to the last heat of the day. In the final, Baker came up against the form surfer of 2021 Jordan Lawler in what was set to be a blockbuster and the pair didn’t disappoint. Lawler was unable to conjure the form he showed earlier in the day while Baker posted an excellent two-wave total of 16.70 to claim his fourth QS victory.
“Four wins from four finals feels pretty good,” Baker said. “But I think it just adds more pressure for the future if I make a final. It’s been such a great couple of weeks to be back competing. I started working last year and got a dose of the real world so I feel really fortunate to be back in competitive surfing as I think everyone around here is. It’s been a good start to the year and I hope to keep the momentum going especially ahead of my wildcard entry into the Championship Tour event at home in Newcastle. That’s the main goal I’m working towards along with Challenger Series qualification.”
After solid results at last week’s Great Lakes Pro, Kobie Enright and Philippa Anderson had the momentum on-hand, when the QS landed in Port Stephens and it was obvious from the get-go. Each competitor tore through the draw all the way to the final where the pair met and went head-to-head. Enright started the heat strongly, posting an excellent 8.17 on her first ride. She immediately backed it up with a further demonstration of her powerful frontside hacks, leaving Anderson to chase down the lead. Although Anderson posted an excellent score of her own, she was unable to back it up leaving Enright to take the second QS victory of her young career. Kobie will now head to the Mad Mex Maroubra Pro, a place she has tasted victory before, sitting 14th on the rankings.
“I was just super happy to make it to the final so to win feels amazing,” Enright said. “My last full season of competing was pretty rough and I wasn’t feeling all that confident in my ability so to come back and have a win this early in the year is just the confidence boost I needed, so I’m super stoked. Last year was good for me because it was the time away from competing I needed. I got to fall in love with surfing again and enjoy all of this. It’s been an awesome event getting to surf such a great point break like this. I’m from a right-hand point so definitely feel comfortable out there. I’m looking forward to heading to Maroubra with a win under my belt and having that confidence.”
Regardless of her second-place finish today, QS standout Philippa Anderson looks poised for success in 2021, already cementing herself in the third position on the rankings with a second and third-place finish in consecutive events in 2021. Anderson will now shift her focus to Maroubra, a place she has also won back in 2019.
“My goal coming into this season was to finish every event on finals day and I’ve done that so far so I’m happy with that,” Anderson said. “I’ve had a third and a second, which means the next event should be a win so I’ll work towards that. Now, we are off to Maroubra which is good. It’s a place I’m familiar with, have had a win at and is similar to my home beach so am always confident heading there, so hopefully, I can make the final again and take the win.”
After finishing in the runner-up position at the recent Great Lakes Pro, Narrabeen stalwart and perennial QS standout Jordy Lawler went hell-for-leather in his attempt to go one spot further at Port Stephens. Lawler put on a dominant display of surfing over the duration of the event, consistently posting scores in the excellent range for an array of stylish backside cracks; even claiming the highest two-wave heat total of the event in the semis, 18.50 (out of a possible 20 points). However, he found himself on the back-foot in the final against Baker and was unable to replicate the same form he showed one heat earlier. He’ll now go into the Mad Mex Maroubra Pro looking to cement the top spot on the dais.
“I’m pretty bummed after that final, to be honest,” said Lawler. “I just felt like I was in a bad rhythm and I couldn’t find the waves I was after. I wish I could have really stuck it to Jacko, get good waves and just put on a bit of a show, but I just got stuck on average waves and he out-surfed me. That being said, I’m still happy to make another final, but Jacko just out-surfed me.”
Special mention must go to India Robinson, Liam O’Brien, Dakoda Walters and Kalani Ball who all went down in the quarter and semi-finals. Although they were unable to clinch QS victories, all surfers put on impressive performances and notched up a handful of excellent scores over the duration of their campaigns.
The Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series and the WSL QS will now head south to Maroubra for the Mad Mex Maroubra Pro from the 26th – 28th February 2021.
The elite three-day World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 1000 rated event was the second of four stops on the Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series.
The four-event series will see three QS1000 rated events (Maroubra, Great Lakes and Port Stephens) and one men’s and women’s QS3000 (Central Coast).
In 2020, the WSL revealed a new format for 2021, which included creating distinct seasons between the QS (the regionalised development tier), the Challenger Series (the global battleground for Championship Tour qualification) and the Championship Tour (the world’s best surfers competing for the World Title).
The new tour structure will provide a more streamlined and affordable career pathway for WSL athletes by allowing up-and-coming surfers to develop closer to home without financially overleveraging themselves. Athletes will compete in their regional QS tour in hopes of qualifying for the Challenger Series (CS), and ultimately the Championship Tour, which will reduce the economic pressure on surfers and their sponsors, as well as provide increased opportunities to celebrate local stars.
The QS will run from January through to July 2021 and determine who has qualified for the CS, which will run from August through to December 2021. Each region will have an allocation of surfers that can qualify for the CS through their regional tour. Athletes will be able to roll over points from 2020 QS events into the current season. Australia/Oceania will receive an allocation of ten men’s and eight women’s spots onto the Challenger Series based on the regional QS rankings.
All events will be webcast through worldsurfleague.com and the WSL App.
For more information on these events head to worldsurfleague.com or check the free WSL App.
2021 Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series Event Schedule
Event 1: Great Lakes Pro, Boomerang Beach, Tuesday 16 – Friday 19 February 2021.
Event 2: Port Stephens Pro, Birubi Beach, Sunday 21 – Tuesday 23 February 2021.
Event 3: Mad Mex Maroubra Pro, Maroubra Beach, Friday 26 – Sunday 28 February 2021.
Event 4: Vissla Central Coast Pro, Avoca Beach, Tuesday 2 – Sunday 7 March 2021.
The 2021 Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series will be proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW. The series will also be proudly supported by Vissla, Randwick City Council, Central Coast Council, Mid Coast Council, Port Stephens Council, Mad Mex, Sisstrevolution, Middle Rock Holiday Park, Moby’s Beachside Retreat, Avoca Beach Hotel, WSL and Surfing NSW.