Frenchwoman Johanne Defay started and finished her qualifying series season a champion in the Hunter with victory in the inaugural Port Stephens Toyota NSW Pro at Birubi Beach on Sunday.
The championship tour surfer, who won Surfest’s Anditi Pro at Merewether in February, beat Hawaiian Tatiana Weston-Webb to claim a second 6000-point QS event in the Hunter.
It meant she finished top of the QS standings to guarantee her place again on the CT, where she is ninth and likely to re-qualify with a top-10 finish. Weston-Webb, 11th on the CT, was second on the QS to secure another year on the top tour.
Defay trailed in the final before earning a score of 9.07, on a wave Weston-Webb had to concede, with four minutes left. The ride, featuring a huge lay-back snap, secured a 17.74 to 14.43 win.
“I didn’t have much pressure on me because I’m pretty safe on the CT so that definitely helped me relax,” Defay said. “I had never won a QS and now I have won two in the same area which is really special.”
Merewether’s Philippa Anderson was eliminated in round six on Saturday and Avoca teenager Macy Callaghan made the semi-finals on Sunday. Both needed a better result to book a maiden CT berth.
In the men’s 1000-point event, Surfest pro junior winner Liam O’Brien defeated Jacob Willcox in the final.
Meanwhile, Kiwi Paige Hareb, a runner at Surfest and quarter-finalist on Sunday, secured a return to the women’s CT.
“I was so shattered after my loss I came home to watch the event online,” Hareb said. “That heat was so hard to watch and I just felt sick for the last few minutes, it just took forever. Once it was over and I knew I had qualified I just burst into tears. It has been an intense week and a long year so I’m glad it’s over and I’m back. I have matured a lot over the last few years so am stoked to get back on and tackle it with a different approach and hopefully stay there.”
Weston-Webb was pleased to cement her place on the CT.
“I’m really proud of the way I surfed in the final,” she said.
“Johanne got that last wave in the end and we kind of had a laugh about it. I mean, I can’t do anything else. She’s an amazing surfer and to share a final with a friend is really nice. I’m really happy to requalify for next year and hopefully we come back next year.”
She added: “It’s been an awesome week here. At the beginning of the year I didn’t think I would be here chasing points on the QS, but here I am. It’s a good feeling though to make the final and know how well I surfed and know I have re-qualified, I can head to Maui for the final CT with confidence.”