Kiwi surfer Paige Hareb's bid to requalify for the elite World Surf League championship tour has got off to a great start with a finals appearance in a major event in Australia.
Hareb was beaten by world No. 5 Johanne Defay of France in the final of the Anditi Pro at Newcastle's Merewether Beach today but banked $NZ5300 prizemoney and more importantly vital qualifying points and confidence for the season ahead.
Only 14 surfers compete on the women's WSL tour with one way of winning a berth being via competing on the World Qualifying Series (WQS) where the top six ranked competitors at the end of the year advance to the elite championship.
The Newcastle competition is a six-star event, offering maximum qualifying points and also drawing a hot field including many elite WSL surfers such as Australia's multiple world champion Stephanie Gilmore.
Hareb, superbly fit after a long summer build-up and determined to win her way back onto the WSL where she was a strong competitor for six years, was in sizzling form throughout the week but went to another level over the weekend as she took out the event's top seed, Hawaiian Taitiana Weston-Webb, in the quarter finals.
Another WSL competitor, American Sage Erickson, was Hareb's next victim in the semi-finals.
Defay started strongly in the final held in inconsistent one to one and half metre waves affected by an onshore wind.
The Taranaki surfer struggled to get the ocean to co-operate for her but picked up her two strongest scoring waves midway through the 35-minute final.
The judges rewarded her with scores of 6.43 and 7.2 points out of 10 for the rides but Defay had a stronger two-wave score with rides worth 7.5 and 9.23.
But the 4500 points Hareb picked up for coming second have propelled her near the top of the WQS rankings and set her up for a bold qualifying final.