AFTER more than a year living in Newcastle and with plans to stay longer, South African Sarah Baum considers herself a Novocastrian.
And the 25-year-old used her growing local knowledge in small, shore-break conditions on Tuesday to cruise into round two of Surfest's Holmes Civil Developments Pro at Dixon Park Beach.
Baum had the clearest heat win in round one of the 6000-point World Surf League qualifying series contest, which started after the opening round of the men's Burton Automotive Pro.
Competition in both events was called off for the day at 3pm with a predicted southerly blow set to provide better waves on Wednesday and beyond, which could lead to a move back to Merewether.
The small swell on Tuesday made it a mad scramble for waves in 25-minute, four-person heats, but Baum was in full control of her contest from the first siren.
The goofy-footer opened with a 3.17 on her backhand before concentrating on lefts to lead with a 4.77, then kicking clear with best scores of 5.13 and 6.17.
Her 11.30 total was more than enough to beat American Autumn Hays (8.24), Australian Sophie Fletcher (6.50) and Indonesian Kailani Johnson (5.10).
"It was good. I had a bit of a game plan and just stuck with it and it paid off for me," Baum said.
"I've been surfing this break for the last couple of months, so it was fun.
"With the high tide, the rights were getting a bit too full so I was just aiming on getting those little lefts and at least getting two good turns in, that's what they were scoring and I'm just happy with how I did.
"It's just good to get the first heat over and done with and wipe those nerves off and it looks like the conditions are getting pretty good for the next couple of days."
Baum is living in Wallsend with her partner and is a member of the Merewether Surfboard Club, where friend and fellow South African-born surfer Philippa Anderson is a training partner.
She was close to making the championship tour in 2011 when 11th on the QS and is using Newcastle as a base to revive her hopes.
Former CT surfer Alana Blanchard was the highest-profile casualty on day two. The 29-year-old mother-of-one and partner of Australian CT competitor Jack Freestone finished last in her round one heat.
In the men's, Merewether's Morgan Cibilic (8.74) bowed out with a third behind Americans Luke Gordon (12.67) and Kevin Schulz (10.90).
World No.2 Julian Wilson starts in heat one of round two, possibly on Wednesday morning. Merewether's Jackson Baker and Ryan Callinan start in heats five and 17 respectively.