O'Leary Wins Vissla Central Coast Pro
AVOCA BEACH, CENTRAL COAST (Monday, 4 March 2019): Sage Erickson and Connor O’Leary have won the first World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 3000 event on Australian shores, the Sisstrevolution and Vissla Central Coast Pro. Avoca Beach turned on bumpy three-to-four foot right-handers for the final day with the biggest scores of the event going down in the last few heats. Erickson and O’Leary both fell off the elite Championship Tour (CT) at the end of 2018 and have put themselves in a great position for re-qualification with this victory.
Connor O’Leary and Matt Banting have been the form surfers of the Australian QS leg in 2019 both taking QS1,000 wins over the last month then matching up in the Final of the Vissla Central Coast Pro today. Banting was going to be hard to beat as he looked razor sharp on the long wally rights of Avoca Point. This was until the 2017 CT Rookie of The Year O’Leary got to work on his backhand and posted the highest heat total of the entire event, a near perfect 19.50 two-wave combination which included the only perfect 10.00 of the event. O’Leary now sits a healthy sixth on the QS rankings.
“This is a bit of a dream come true to start my 2019 like this,” said O’Leary. “That final was definitely a solid confidence boost, especially coming up against someone like Matt who has been absolutely tearing lately. My whole goal is to hopefully keep the momentum going into the rest of 2019 and hopefully get a few more results over the year. This is my first time in Avoca also, so I walk away from here with a heap of good memories.”
Former Championship Tour competitor Matt Banting has spent the last 12 months reacquainting himself with competitive surfing after suffering a number of career-threating injuries through 2016-17. The technically gifted natural-footer is hoping to get back on the dream tour ASAP and this result will go along way to getting him there. Although he was left needing two big scores to take the lead in the final, Banting still posted an excellent heat total of 16.24 to finish runner-up. Banting was also awarded the AirAsia Air of the Day for a variety of impressive aerials over the course of the event.
“I didn’t have any expectations at the beginning of the year except I just wanted to start strong in the Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series,” said Banting. “To make two finals in two weeks is a bit of a dream come true. This is such a good preparation coming into the QS6000 events at Newcastle and Manly and it has definitely helped the confidence. Connor and I have been competing since we were kids and I would have loved to beat him, but I walk away from here knowing I can trust my surfing in different conditions.”
Sage Erickson was the woman to beat all week, posting solid numbers in every heat that she surfed and the final was no different as she dominated with a two-wave combination of 17.07, the highest heat total of the Women’s division. Although she calls Santa Barbra home, Erickson spends a good amount of time on the Central Coast and it showed in her comfort throughout the week and the support she had on the beach. Having fallen off the elite Championship Tour at the end of 2018, this 3000-point boost will go along way to getting her back where she belongs in 2020.
“I’m so happy right now,” Erickson said. “I’ve never competed in a QS3,000 so to finally get to one and win feels so good. This is such an important step for me in terms of re-qualifying. I spent a lot of time over the off-season thinking about competing less and just doing surf trips but knew I would miss competing too much and this really solidifies my decision to compete heavily on the QS this year. My boyfriend lives here on the Central Coast so I really feel at home here and love my time here and feel comfortable. I’m really excited for the next few events at Newcastle and Manly and hope I can continue this roll.”
16-year-old Sara Wakita had never made it past the early rounds of a QS event until today when she put on some of the strongest performances of her career, even taking down CT competitor Bronte Macaulay. Although Wakita was disappointed she struggled to keep up in the final, she was thrilled to have had the experience she did at the Sisstrevolution Central Coast Pro and is now sitting at fifth on the QS rankings.
“I would have liked to have been a bit more competitive in the Final but I’m so stoked with this result,” Wakita said. “I’ve never surfed against top seed surfers in a QS so this has been such an awesome experience for me and will definitely help me moving forward. This is by far the best result of my career so I’m so happy and can’t wait for the next events in New South Wales.”
QS competitors will now set their sights on the back-to-back QS6,000 events in Newcastle and Manly in the coming weeks. For more information head to www.worldsurfleague.com
The elite six-day event formed the third and final stop on the Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series and will take place in Avoca Beach from the 27th February – 4th March 2019.
2019 Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series Event Schedule
Event 1: Carve Pro QS1,000, Maroubra – January 23 – 26
Event 2: Mothernest Great Lakes Pro, Boomerang Beach – February 20 -24
Event 3: Vissla Central Coast Pro, Avoca Beach – February 27 – March 4
The Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series was developed for Australian and International surfers to gain ranking points and prize money on the WSL Qualifying Series. The series also creates a NSW coastal road trip for all to explore the variety of waves, visit local communities and enjoy NSW surfing culture.
The 2019 Vissla Central Coast Pro is happening right now in the Central Coast, with some of the world’s most promising surfers competing. Remember if you’re driving around the region in the event window#notxtnowrecksbought to you by Surfing NSW and supported by NSW Government Community Road Safety Grants program.
The 2019 Vissla Central Coast Pro is supported by the NSW Government. The event will also be proudly supported by Vissla, Sisstrevolution, Central Coast Council, AirAsia, H2Coco, Avoca Beach Hotel, Sea FM, WSL and Surfing NSW.