• Michelle Meehan

World Surfing Spotlight Shines on Merewether

Newcastle has long been synonymous with world-class surfing. From its 36-year history as the home of international surf contests to its legendary line-up of former pros including Luke Egan, Matt Hoy, Nicky Woods and four-time world champ Mark Richards, Newcastle is known around the world for its impressive surfing pedigree.

It’s little wonder then that Newcastle was one of the first doors the World Surfing League (WSL) came knocking on when COVID-19 forced a shift from some of their traditional Australian locations this year.

The Rip Curl Newcastle Cup will officially kick off the Australian leg of the 2021 Championship Tour on April 1, replacing the time-honoured Bells Beach event in a one-off detour to the renowned breaks of Merewether Beach.

It will see 54 of the world’s best surfers take to the waves for their first competitive CT event since the final two American rounds of the tour were cancelled in January following a surge in coronavirus cases in the US.

World Surf League Asia Pacific General Manager Andrew Stark said the return to competition was a long-time coming for the athletes, who were ready and raring to go after completing two weeks of quarantine in Sydney.

“The WSL as a whole, staff and surfers, are extremely excited to be back doing what we do best – running world-class events, not only for ourselves but for surf fans all around the world,” he said.

“The pandemic has been really tough on international sports globally, including WSL, so it will be extremely rewarding to sound the siren for heat one and even better to present the trophies to the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup 2021 winners.

“Merewether is a quality high-performance wave, and Newcastle is a place with such an incredible pro surfing history. From the long-running Surfest and Mattara events to birthing legends like Mark Richards, Nicky Wood and Luke Egan, to name a few, the place is a surf town and is always front of mind when it comes to surfing events.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the world’s best surfers back doing what they do best, in the competition jersey in one of the world’s most historical, iconic and passionate surf towns.”

While the event will give Newcastle surf fans an unmissable opportunity to see the sport’s elite athletes in action, there will also be plenty of hometown pride on the line, with seeded Novocastrians Ryan Callinan and Morgan Cibilic lining up alongside adopted “local” Julian Wilson, who moved to the area three years ago.

Rounding out the Merewether contingent will be Qualifying Series surfers Philippa Anderson and Jackson Baker, who have been granted wildcard status for the CT event.

“The opportunity to see the world’s best surfers doing battle at your home break is something every surfer would be excited about. It’s not every day Gabriel Medina, Stephanie Gilmore, Carissa Moore and John John Florence surf at your local spot,” Mr Stark said.

“The WSL offered a men’s and a women’s wildcard spot to the Merewether Boardriders Club, and they were able to award them to Philippa Anderson and Jackson Baker, two promising QS talents from Merewether.

“It’s a massive opportunity for the two of them, and we’re all really excited to see them take on the world’s best at their home break.

“Merewether handles all sorts of conditions and can offer up different challenges for competitors. From big, long right-handers in a south swell to peaky beach-break conditions in an east or north-east swell.

“The best aspect will be that the competitors will be forced to adapt to a number of conditions, and fans will get to see all sorts of surfing. Autumn is prime time for waves here, so we should get some excellent surf in this timeframe.”

While COVID-19 restrictions will limit the event's capacity to 3000 spectators each day, with free tickets available via Ticketek under a randomised ballot process, you can also catch all the action live at www.worldsurfleague.com, 7Plus, Fox Sports or Kayo.

In the lead-up to the event, local contenders Ryan Callinan and Philippa Anderson took time out to take part in an exclusive Q&A with intouch Magazine, discussing their love of the sport, the highs and lows of their careers and their thoughts on taking part in the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup 2021.

Top Image: Ryan Callinan, Credit WSL.

Check out the interview with Ryan Callinan HERE.

Check out the interview with Philippa Anderson HERE.

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