It was almost symbolic in Newcastle this week. The waves for the opening rounds of the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup were dismal at best, a depressing reminder how the pandemic had altered the face of professional surfing. But things gradually got better. Newy locals like Luke Egan kept talking up the wave’s potential and as the week went on, conditions drastically improved to the point where on finals day, Newcastle was showing itself off as the fantastic contest venue it is.
On full display for the world to see, the waves were firing for finals day, with clean offshore breezes and blissful overhead surf. With the pulsing swell and energy, the World Surf League saw it as a fitting time to solidify its schedule, announcing a new venue and confirming a slew of events for the 2021 campaign.
Despite the lowly conditions at the start, Italo Ferreira and Carissa Moore looked incredible throughout. Italo took an entirely different strategy from other competitors early on, choosing to farm the shorebreak for big, one-hit wonder moves that moved him through the early rounds as the surf grew in size and strength. Speaking of strength, two of the most powerful surfers in the world right now met in the finals: Italo went up against Gabriel Medina in a dream matchup after Medina threw a ridiculous punt (below) that sent him into the finals. But for two of the best aerialists in the world, it was more about the rail in the final (save for Italo’s memorable full rotor).
Carissa looked a step ahead the entire show, her well-rounded surfing punctuated by a fantastic air that launched her into the semifinals against Caroline Marks. But it was her strong rail game that allowed her to win out against the surprisingly composed rookie, Isabella Nichols, who definitely showed the world this week she’ll be a force to reckon with as we move through the heavily-altered 2021 season. It was Carissa’s 24th event win, tying four-time world champ Wendy Botha to move to third on the all time list.
Solidifying the WSL Tour Schedule
As mentioned, the World Surf League also saw fit to solidify the rest of its 2021 schedule. Following the Australian leg, the tour will head to the Surf Ranch June 25-27, then to Barra de La Cruz, Mexico for the Corona Open Mexico (the first time the CT has been south of the border in 15 years). Mex will be followed by Brazil, August 11-16, Tahiti (perhaps the year’s most anticipated event) August 22 through September 1, with the WSL Finals at Trestles September 8-17.
“It’s so good to see the athletes back in the jersey and competing in Australia,” said the WSL’s Head of Competition, Jessi Miley-Dyer, who was obviously over the moon with how the Newcastle contest went off. “I’m excited that we are able to confirm the rest of the tour and I’m looking forward to the upcoming events, especially to see the women surf alongside the men at Teahupo’o for the first time in 15 years.”
It was truly a day to celebrate competitive surfing. Considering everything that’s gone on in the last year, the WSL deserves a high five for the way things have gone in Australia. Other than a few tiny hiccups, the broadcast was flawless, with Egan and Rabbit Bartholomew, as well as a hefty lineup of Australian commentators, adding real insight to the broadcast.
Now the surfing world looks to Narrabeen with the contest window opening in just five days.