Surfest stoked with six-star rating

SURFEST is again expected to attract some of the world’s best surfers after keeping six-star ratings for its premier men’s and women’s World Qualifying Series events next year.

The Association of Surfing Professionals released its international calendar of events for 2013 on Wednesday, retaining the Merewether contests at the sought-after six-star level but moving them to earlier in the year.

This year Surfest’s main events were held from March 12 to 18 but they have been locked in for February 18-24 in the 2013 schedule under an event status of ‘‘tentative’’.

However, Surfest organiser Warren Smith said everything was on track for a repeat of this year’s success. He was awaiting confirmation of the event dates from ASP Australasia.

‘‘We’re very happy with the progress we’re making on all fronts,’’ Smith said.

This year Surfest was held after the World Tour Championship event on the Gold Coast but before the prime-rated Margaret River Pro.

Next year Surfest will be held before the WCT contest, which is set down for March 2-13. Margaret River is scheduled for March 16-24.

The change could place Surfest is a better position to attract more WCT surfers, who may want to use the Merewether break to warm up for the main event on the Gold Coast.

The four-star Burleigh Pro, set down for February 3 to 10, is the only 2013 Australasian event before Surfest.

Australian world tour veterans Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson, who is closing in on his first world title, headlined the $155,000 men’s contest in March when it reached six-star status for the first time.

Brazilian Willian Cardoso upset the big names to claim the Mark Richards Trophy.

NSW south coast star and eventual winner Sally Fitzgibbons and 2011 world champion Carissa Moore, from Hawaii, led an impressive list of entrants for the $40,000 women’s contest this year.

Burton Toyota is back as major sponsor of the men’s contest, while Nathan Tinkler’s Hunter Ports is on board as the women’s event backer for the third year of a five-year commitment. 

Tinkler and his Hunter Sports Group rescued the women’s contest in 2011, pledging to underwrite the women’s event for five years to the tune of $50,000 a year with annual increments of $5000.

Despite reports of  Tinkler’s cash flow problems, Smith said the self-made millionaire had always honoured his commitment to Surfest and he had no reason to believe that would change.

‘‘I cannot thank Nathan  and his group enough for the support they’ve given to us and surfing,’’ Smith said.

Surfest is billed as the largest surfing festival in the southern hemisphere.

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