After starting the season in water temperatures as cold as -3C, Kiwi surfers Paige Hareb and Ella Williams will paddle out in much warmer conditions in Newcastle.
The pair were set to continue their World Surf League qualifying series (QS) campaigns at the QS6000 in Newcastle, with the competition beginning on Monday.
With one major event already under their belts, Hareb and Williams go in after making very different starts.
In the first event of the season, which was in Florida last month, Hareb made it through to the quarterfinals, while Williams was eliminated in round two.
"It was a definitely a new challenge for me," Williams said. "I don't think I've surfed a wave like that on the QS ever."
While the wave in Florida offered very little in the way of size and consistency, Newcastle was set to be hit by decent swell as high as 3m just in time for the competition.
"It'll be a nice change. A lot of the QS waves are smaller and maybe suit some of the younger girls. It evens the playing field a bit when it's bigger."
Williams has spent the past couple of weeks in Australia preparing for the competition in Newcastle, taking part in two of the lower-level QS1000 events to get back into the competitive environment before paddling out at Merewether Beach.
"It's kind of a smart idea to do it. It's great if you can get a win but if you don't do it, well it doesn't matter too much."
Williams goes into the competition in Newcastle sitting in 51st on the QS ladder, while Hareb sits among the top 10.
Like Williams, Hareb had been in Australia for a few weeks in the lead up to the tournament. Rather than competing in the lower-level QS competitions, Hareb took the opportunity to spend some time at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast – the venue for the first Championship Tour event in March.
"When I first came over I tried to surf Snapper as much as I could before the whole circus showed up."
Hareb, who was runner-up at Newcastle last year, was travelling down to Newcastle with Australian trio Isabella Nicholls, Ellie Brooks and Codie Klein and, like Williams, said she was excited at the prospect of a good swell.
"It'll be a bit of a change from Florida…I think there could be a few different heat winners. Not everyone can surf in bigger conditions, like not everyone can surf the smaller stuff."
The event in Newcastle was the first of back to back QS6000 competitions, with the surfers heading to compete in Manly the week following. It also signals the beginning of the men's QS campaign.
National champion Ricardo Christie and Billy Stairmand will fly the flag for the Kiwis in the men's competitions as they being their hunt for a World Tour berth.
Upcoming World Surf League qualifying series events
Newcastle Surfest. Men's and Women's QS6000s. Merewether Beach. February 19-25
Vissla Sydney Surf Pro. Men's and Women's QS6000s. Manly Beach. February 26-March 4
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