The Okanui Old Mal (boards pre 1968), and Jared Mell was loose yet precise, adventurous and entertaining - as he always is. PIC: @surfshotsnoosa / Noosa Festival of Surfing

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The worst of the swell predictions were a distant memory this morning with First Point generating perfect waves for early heats.

Glassy, groomed conditions welcomed the Indulge Women’s Open on sunrise and the girls really made the most of it. Roisin Carolan was again sublime in her surfing skills and competition savvy, confidently progressing to the later rounds, and Kirra Seale also shone brightly to advance. The Japanese contingent cemented their place as a force to be reckoned with, Hiroka Yoshikawa taking an excellent and undisputed win.

Kristy Quirk flew the local flag to progress, while in the final heat of round one, Sierra Lerback continued her flawless form of the festival, the talented Hawaiian posting exceptional scores from textbook rides for a win approaching the perfect 20-point maximum.

Local surfer and Mal Club president, Glen Gower, combined local knowledge with brilliant skills, making the most of sporadic sets and implementing impeccable wave selection for his heat win in the Kennards Hire Men’s 50 & Over.

Fellow Noosarian Wally Allan continued his great run, again coming out on top to advance to Saturday’s final, leapfrogging the second-chance reperchage to take place later this afternoon. The local pair would be joined in round three by fellow heat winners George Haskas and Chris Bate.

Round Three of the world-renowned Logger Pro brought the very best surfing into the limelight. The top six seeded surfers from 2016 began the defense as last year’s finalists, joining round one qualifiers in a breathtaking display of contemporary logging. The division was nothing short of world-class in each and every heat, contestants so equally matched that predictions were impossible, a hair’s breadth often separating qualifier and knock-out.

Logging aficionado, Matt Chojnacki, opened the round well with a great win over Dane Wilson, while 2015 division champ Sam Crookshank looked set for the path to the top once more, brilliant in heat two.

Kaimana Takayama continued his excellent form, but a wave-starved First Point made finding two waves of potential continually challenging. Kai opened his heat with a good score, but soon superseded by the multiple waves of others. After waiting almost the entire 20 minutes of the heat in fourth place, he collected a wave on the sound of the final horn, elevating himself from fourth to second to qualify for the next round.

Several familiar names filled the remaining qualifying spots, including the sublime Jared Mell. Former world champion Harley Ingleby and Harrison Roach, with Bowie Pollard continuing his fine run to also take a win. Jordan Spee showed that his junior potential is now coming to fruition and the young surfer posted a very strong second place to advance.

The Laguna Real Estate Men’s Open was almost as much a test of equipment as it was skill, those opting for more refined, high-performance boards suffering from the lack of volume and trim.

The Japanese contingent were strong, Masami Yaguchi winning heat two and Shun Hieda coming from fourth to first in the final seconds of his heat. Hudson Ritchie was one of the minority on heavier, more traditional equipment and the choice paid off to take him into round three.

Dan Croskery and Damian Coulter were dominant in the GJ Gardner Men’s 40 & Over, joining Andrew Frago in the final and leaving the remainder scrabbling for the second and third spots and a second chance at the final.

The Okanui Old Mal was in familiar territory, with Jared Mell, Jack Norton, Harrison Roach and Thomas Bexon all surfing impeccably on the pre-1968 surfcraft. Jordan Spee again reflected profound ability, but the round was Gus O’Malley’s the baby of the division surfing absolutely brilliantly to gain a finals spot just behind Jack Norton.

The highest tide of the week drew with it the disappointment of waning waves, causing numerous surprise upsets. With the decision made to halt competition after the fourth round of the Logger Pro, it was all the surfers could do to find a wave of consequence.

Usually a stand-out, Matt Chojnacki was the first to fall to the deficient swell and Sam Crookshanks’ hopes of reclaiming his former crown came to an abrupt stop, bereft of scoring opportunities.

With Harley Ingleby again successful, alongside Bowie Pollard, Californian Jared Mell and Alex ‘Cuts Doloro’ Bullpitt to advance to Saturday’s final.

Golden Breed hosted the official launch of the dynamic new division, the Gordon & Switch Invitational, Dane Wilson helping to present the boards he has designed for this exciting inaugural event. The evening hosted an auction of many superb prizes, all funds contributed to Waves of Wellness in support of those suffering mental health issues.

As the red Laguna Bay sunset faded to black, the band struck up, the party followed suit and Hump Day of the Laguna Real Estate Noosa Festival of Surfing drew to a close.

The snowball accelerates from here, ever closer to Saturday’s grand finals.

For more info on the Laguna Real Estate Noosa Festival of Surfing, please visit the website

 - report by Tommy Leitch / NFOS


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