The surfing world’s attention has turned to Snapper Rocks as competitors gather for the highly anticipated Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro. As the first stop of the 2023 World Surf League (WSL) Challenger Series, this event marks the beginning of a thrilling season where the world’s best up-and-coming surfers will battle it out for a chance to qualify for the elite Championship Tour in 2024. Snapper Rocks, renowned for its long, ruler edge walls and perfect waves, promises to provide the ideal canvas for these aspiring athletes to showcase their skills.
With the recent Mid-season Cut in the Championship Tour (CT), the Challenger Series now welcomes both seasoned veterans aiming to reclaim their spots on the CT in 2024 and fresh faces aspiring to make their mark in professional surfing. The top 10 men and top 5 women in the Challenger Series rankings at the end of the season will earn coveted spots on the 2024 Championship Tour. It’s important to note that out of the six Challenger Series competitions, only the top four results will count towards the surfers’ overall rankings.
The 2023 Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro has attracted some of the biggest names in surfing, none more prominent than Stephanie Gilmore. As the reigning 8-time World Champion and a local at Snapper Rocks, Gilmore carries a significant advantage into the event. With a Quarterfinal finish at the recent Western Australia Margaret River Pro, she secured her place above the Mid-season Cut and is now determined to showcase her dominance on home turf. Having already clinched six major event wins at Snapper Rocks, Gilmore undoubtedly stands out as the woman to beat.
Expressing her excitement, Gilmore said, “It feels great to be home and coming down the hill to compete. Competing at this spot is a massive part of my life, so it would feel strange not to do it. Surfing these Challenger Series events is such a great way to keep your competitive IQ up. There are four-person heats against some of the hungriest young competitors, and the talent levels are super high, so it’s no walk in the park, and it’s a great test. The fact that Snapper will have good waves with no one out is just a bonus. The forecast looks really good for the second half of the window, so it should be a great event.”
However, Gilmore is not the only renowned CT veteran competing at Snapper Rocks. The likes of Kolohe Andino and Boost Mobile Team Rider Sally Fitzgibbons, both falling short of the Mid-season Cut, find themselves on the Challenger Series for the remainder of 2023. Despite the setback, Andino and Fitzgibbons are eager to embrace the new challenge of regaining their spots at the elite level. Having both made Finals at the Gold Coast in the past, they hope to kick off the season with a strong performance.
Reflecting on his experience, Andino expressed his enthusiasm, saying, “I’ve been coming here since I was a kid, and it’s one of my favorite spots in the world. I’m looking forward to coming up against these kids and testing myself on the Challenger Series in a different format to what I’ve become accustomed to. There’s a bunch of young kids from near my home on this Series, and it’s cool being able to impart some of my knowledge with them both competitively and just about these locations that I’ve had a lot of experience at. It’s a new way of touring for me, and I’m enjoying it so far. There are fun waves, and a lot of my friends are here, so I’m just having fun.”
While the CT veterans bring their expertise to the competition, they face fierce competition from a field of talented up-and-coming surfers who are eager to make their mark on the Challenger Series. One such surfer is Mateus Herdy, a former World Junior Champion known for his quick-fire progressive style of surfing. Herdy, who grew up watching surfing movies featuring Snapper Rocks, is thrilled to have the opportunity to surf and compete at this iconic wave.
“I grew up watching all the movies that came out of the Gold Coast with Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson and all of the local crew, so to be here surfing this wave and competing at it is beyond a dream,” Herdy said. “It sounds like the waves are going to be really good next week, so I’m looking forward to putting on a show.”
Another determined competitor is Portugal’s Teresa Bonvalot, who narrowly missed out on CT qualification last year. Motivated by her previous heartbreak, Bonvalot aims to use that experience as fuel to propel her forward this year. With the opportunity to compete in a few CT events this year as a wildcard, she gained valuable insight into the level of competition at that elite level, further motivating her to secure a full-time spot.
“Last year was really tough,” Bonvalot shared. “I think everything happens for a reason, and I learned a lot from that, which is a good thing. I have also had the opportunity to compete in a few CT events this year as a wildcard, and seeing how it all works at that level has given me so much motivation to make it as a full-time competitor at that level.”
WSL Tours and Competition team have called the event ON for Day 4, with action expected to commence at 7:35 am local time on May 12.
Today should see the Quarterfinalists decided and progress into Semi Finals depending on conditions.