MEREWETHER Surfboard Club will look to Ryan Callinan to get them off to a flying start against 2012 world champion Joel Parkinson and his two-time winners, Snapper Rocks, at the Australian Boardriders Battle national final at Newcastle Beach on Saturday.
Callinan, a 2016 championship tour surfer, will spearhead Merewether’s team of Jackson Baker, Travis Lynch, Luke Egan (over-35s), Philippa Anderson (women’s) and Morgan Cibilic (juniors).
Twenty-four clubs will compete in skins, teams and women’s sections across Saturday and Sunday with $85,000, including a $20,000 first prize, up for grabs.
Merewether, who have finished third twice at the national finals, take on Tasmanian qualifiers North West, Coffs Harbour and Culburra, who have women’s world champion Tyler Wright, in the round-one teams and women’s heats. In the skins, where a surfer from each club has the chance to continually progress from four-person heats, Merewether clash with Snapper Rocks and North West, setting up a clash between Billabong teammates Callinan and Parkinson.
Merewether club captain Lynch said Snapper would be their main rivals and Callinan had the chance to strike an early blow for his team.
“Ryan is looking really good at the moment and if he can put it together in the skins, that will be really good for us and we’ll see how we go from there,” Lynch said.
He said Merewether would gain “extra motivation” to do well this weekend from deciding to donate 10 per cent of all competition prizemoney won this year to leukemia and breast cancer foundations in honour of Callinan’s father, Garry, and Baker’s mother, Tracy, who both died in 2016.
As for any home advantage, Lynch said the Merewether crew rarely surfed at Newcastle but that had changed in recent times because of the “good banks” forming at the beach.
Parkinson, six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore (Snapper Rocks) and Wright headline a star-studded field for the event, which comes to Newcastle after three initial years at Cronulla. Action starts 8am.
Meanwhile, Newcastle’s Sabre Norris, Jade Wheatley and Hunter Business Boardriders (HBB) are up for gongs at the Surfing Australia Awards at Newcastle Exhibition and Convention Centre on Saturday night. Norris is a contender for the Rising Star award, HBB and amputee surfer Wheatley – and his Walk for Waves initiative – are nominations for the Greater Good honour. HBB are a contender for the Simon Anderson Club award.
On the beach, 2016 women’s world champion and likely female surfer of the year award winner was looking forward to the teams event in Newcastle.
“Having the boardriders battle in Newcastle this year will be a totally different experience - I'm excited for the change,” Wright said.
“A boardriders event is really different for me with the unique format. It is always cool as it sets this event apart from any other event – all of a sudden it's a team effort, rather than just you, doing what you do.”
Snapper Rocks won the first two national finals and Gilmore said they were keen to make history again.
“Everyone wants to win for each other and their club as a whole,” Gilmore said.
“Being crowned the best boardriders club in the country is a pretty big bragging right and Snapper would love to become the first club to win three nudie Australian Boardriders Battle National Titles.”
Parkinson said: “We (Snapper Rocks Surfriders Club) are keen to make amends for last year because we didn’t feel like we ever really got going. It's going to be a really tight competition, I got a look at some of the other team lists and there are some unbelievably good surfers registered.”
A new team at the finals is Avoca Boardriders, which feature world No.5 Matt Wilkinson and No.15 Adrian Buchan.
"The nudie Australian Boardriders Battle series final this year is just before the Newcastle QS6000, so I'm going to get to spend a bit of time in one place, which is always nice,” Wilkinson said.
“The battle itself is a pretty fun event – there's always heaps going on and people are there for a good time. Putting that team aspect into surfing is awesome.”