Molly Picklum and Reef Heazlewood have taken victory at the Great Lakes Pro presented by Surfers Rescue 24/7; the opening event of the 2021 World Surf League Qualifying Series. The pair were the surfers to beat, each posting the highest scores of the event on finals day to clinch their maiden WSL QS victories in solid but junky, four-to-five foot peaks at Tuncurry Breakwall.
Reef Heazlewood has completed a perfect comeback to competition with his first-ever WSL QS win at the Great Lakes Pro. After being hampered by event cancellations and a shoulder injury in 2020, Heazlewood started 2021 more determined than ever and it showed as he posted the three highest heat totals of the event on his way to the final. In the final, Reef came up against North Narrabeen’s Jordy Lawler and the pair didn’t disappoint, going wave for wave until the last siren with Heazlewood taking the victory.
“It’s been a long road back to this point after injury and Covid, so to start the year with this win feels incredible. Hopefully, it sets up the rest of the year,” said Heazlewood. “I think the conditions really played into my favour and I was looking at these lefts peeling through before the start of each heat and I just wanted to go out there and surf like I was making a video part. It was awesome.”
Molly Picklum has been a massive blip on the surfing world’s radar for a number of years now, but today she solidified herself as the woman to watch as she claimed her first-ever WSL QS 1,000 event win. The 18-year-old natural footer saved her best performance till last, posting the highest heat total of the event in the final against Sophie McCulloch. Picklum’s 15.00 point total came from a series of massively committed backside turns.
“This feels amazing and something I’ll remember forever,” said Picklum. “I’ve been dreaming of taking out a QS event since finishing runner-up in the Maroubra QS back in 2018 and to win this feels like I’ve achieved a personal goal. I’ve been staying here with my coach Micro [Glenn Hall] and working really hard on my strategies and heat gameplan while I’ve been here and it really helped having him here alongside me. I can’t wait for the rest of the series over the coming weeks.”
Jordy Lawler was destined to end up in the final with Reef Heazlewood with the chunky beach-breaks suiting his style perfectly, offering huge sections for the Narrabeen goofy-foot to annihilate. Although Lawler was unable to claim his third major QS win, he heads to the Port Stephens Pro in second on the rankings and in a good spot for Challenger Series qualification.
“It would have been good to win, but second is always nice. I want to treat this year like a marathon, not a sprint, so I’ll take it for sure,” said Lawler. “It was tricky out there. Sometimes you’d get really lucky and get a heap of gems but in the final, it felt like I was getting sets on the head. I just want to give this year my best shot and keep getting consistent results and do my best in this Australian leg.”
In the final, Picklum came up against Sunshine Coast surfer Sophie McCulloch who was on fire all week, posting solid scores in every heat she surfed. McCulloch was unable to continue that rhythm as she took second place to cement herself an impressive start to the season.
“I’m pretty happy that I made the final, especially because I don’t think I gave it my best,” said McCulloch. “That was a really fun final against Molly and she really drove me to give it everything and go for it. There was a lot that tested us at this event as you often didn’t know where we’d be running because of the conditions and then the bigger waves, brutal end sections and the weather really could leave you feeling quite fatigued.”
Be sure to tune in next week as the Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series as part of the WSL Qualifying Series heads south for the Port Stephens Pro.
The elite four-day World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 1000 rated event was the first 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.