Danny Wills (Byron Bay) and Sophia Fulton (Cabarita) are the 2016 NSW Open Shortboard Champions following a series of high-scoring and exciting battles in picturesque three-foot waves at the inaugural HIF Yamba Surfing Festival at Turners Beach on the weekend.
As former world number three, Wills was always considered a solid threat going into the event. Over the duration of the competition, the Byron Bay natural-footer posted a handful of excellent scoring waves and was considered the man to beat going into the final rounds. However, he had to put up a solid fight when he came up against an in-form Blake Levett (Manly) who dominated the majority of his earlier heats. When the final hooter blew, Wills posted an admirable 16.07 heat total (out of a possible 20 points) to take the title from Levett by a 3.27 point margin.
Both aforementioned surfers have cemented themselves a spot into the NSW Team for the Australian Surf Festival, while Wills will get the opportunity to return to World Surf League competition thanks to a wildcard into round of 96 into the 2017 Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro.
Fulton showed zero signs of weakness in the women’s final against local favourite Tahlia Redgard (Angourie), performing a variety of explosive backside turns. The north coast natural-footer was almost unstoppable in the punchy conditions posting two excellent waves in the nine-point range, which momentarily left the local chasing a two-wave combination of scores to take Fulton’s lead. Redgard closed the gap posting a brilliant 9.03 wave score, but was unable to muster up the required 9.31 to take the title.
As a result of the win, Fulton earned herself a wildcard into the round of 48 in the Surfest Women’s Pro, a spot in the NSW Team for the upcoming Australian Surf Festival at Coffs Harbour and the HIF Wave of the Day award.
Over 150 surfers will compete in the four-day event, which will decide the male and female NSW Open Surfmasters Team and NSW Open Longboard Team for the 2016 Australian Surf Festival in Coffs Harbour in August.
In addition to making the NSW Team, winners of the Open Shortboard divisions at the event have scored themselves wildcards into the 2017 Surfest World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) event in Newcastle, with the women scoring a spot in the round of 48 in the Surfest Women’s Pro, while the men will score a spot into the round of 96 in the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro.