Victorian Nikki Van Dijk ended the hopes of Merewether’s Philippa Anderson on the way to guaranteeing herself a sixth year on the championship tour with victory at the Port Stephens Toyota Pro at Birubi Beach on Tuesday.
Port Stephens Pro: Nikki Van Dijk dashes Newcastle hopes on way to title | photos SO CLOSE: Philippa Anderson reacts after her quarter-final loss on Tuesday. Picture: Ethan Smith/WSL
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1234567891011121314151617181920 – Van Dijk beat Anderson in the quarter-finals13.27 to 11.56, Costa Rican Brisa Hennessyin the semis 16.57 to 14.76and Central Coast’s Macy Callaghan in the final 14.56 to 13.34 at the last qualifying series contest of 2018.
Results at the 6000-point event werecrucial to several contenders for 2019 championship tour spots and Callaghan, Van Dijk and Costa Rican Brisa Hennessy were the big winners.
Callaghan, 18, secured her maiden place on the tour when making the final and Hennessy is certain to debut. They jumped to sixth and seventh respectively on the QS, which is effectively third and fourth when surfers in position to qualify through the CT top 10 are taken out. The top six from the QS are promoted each year.
Anderson was 11th on the QS and seventh on adjusted rankings before the Port Stephens Pro but she finished 13thand ninth.
Results at the CT finale in Maui from November 25could change the qualification picture. Van Dijk is now second on the QS and safe, as well as 10thon the CT, where Malia Manuel could still double qualify. The wildcard spot and injuries to Silvana Lima, who is justinside qualification, and Keely Andrew, who is just outside, could also befactors.
However, Anderson, 26,appears certain to miss out again. It is the third time she has finished 13thon the QS. She has also been12thtwice across eight years on the second tier.
Anderson needed at least a semi-final to improve her position and shestarted well against the eventual champion, locking in a 6.63 to lead. Van Dijk, who was fourth on the QS before the event, took over with a 6.13 to back up a 6.5 at the halfway point.
Anderson needed a six-point ride to go top before Van Dijk improved with a 6.77 inside the final nine minutes. Anderson bettered her back-up score with a 4.93 with seven to go but she still needed a 6.65.
The waves, already small, were few and far betweenand Anderson had a desperate attempt at an aerial in the last seconds.
“Obviously all the girls here, we’re all such good friends and I think when you come up against your friend in a heat like Philippa – honestly, I’ve been cheering her on all year – it feels funny,” Van Dijk said after winning her quarter-final.
“But we’re really good at crossing the line and it’s basically like we’re going to work out there, so we put ourgame faces on.We had a bit of a chat out there, like ‘Oh gosh, it’s so small’.
“But all the girls are surfing so well and there’s so many points on the line, and it’s really close.”
Callaghan led the final early with a7.17 on her first wave. She backed that up to have a competitive13.34 total. But Van Dijk shone in the final 10 minute with scores of 7.33 and 7.23 from big backhand turns to take her second 6000-point win of the season after prevailing at Manly in March.
“This feels really incredible,” Van Dijk said. “I started the year off with a win at the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro and then finished one of here — which is awesome.
“Two wins in Australia is super special. It’s been such a great week surfing against all of these girls, I was pushed so much in every heat.
“It is a really good warm-up before I head to Maui for the final CT event of the year – it could be just the confidence booster I need.
“Knowing I’m safe on the CT next year is so huge. It was such a reality check for me as every heat I had was against someone who was looking to qualify or re-qualify, but I knew I did too so it made it really intense.
“Knowing I’m safe now means I can head to Maui and just try to enjoy it and hope that the reduction in pressure will allow me to surf my best.
“Obviously the last event of the year is always pretty scary. There’s so many points on the line in this event.
“Every heat I was up against girls who had crazy important points on the line, the same with myself actually. I was needing a lot of these points as well so it was so exciting and what better place to have it than here in Birubi.
“Macy got that seven at the start and I almost thought no more waves are going to break, and I was ‘oh gosh, just please bring another one’.It was a little unfortunate we couldn’t go wave for wave but I guess I got a couple underneath her and I lucked out.”
Callaghan narrowly missed out on qualifying at Birubi Beach last year but was safe before going into the final on Tuesday.
“Finishing second never felt so good,” Callaghan said.
“I came second as a wildcard in France on the CT recently, but I think this one feels even better than that.
“My friends and family on the beach knew that I was on (next year’s CT) but didn’t tell me so it was such a surprise when I came in.
“I’m stoked with how I performed this week and had such a fun time in here in Port Stephens, so to leave knowing I’m on the CT next year makes it a dream come true. I’ve wanted to be on the CT since I was a little girl and I know it’s where I’m meant to be.
“I knew coming into this event I had a big task, and I feel I put all the hard work in and I’m just really happy it all paid off.”
Hennessy was also celebrating.
“No words can describe how I feel – this is a dream come true,” Hennessy said.
“There are so many people I need to thank and that have helped me along the way I just don’t know where to start.
“This is my best result all year so I when I was eliminated in the semi-finals it was kind of bittersweet as I wasn’t sure I had done enough to qualify. My goal at this event was to solidify myself on the CT and when I was beaten by Nikki and qualified at the same time it made it all good. It was great to surf against Nikki today — I’m just over the moon.”
Japan’s Mahina Maeda and CT competitors Sage Erickson and Paige Hareb lost in the quarter-finals. Hareb requalified through the QS but Erickson will needs a huge result at Maui to jump up from 14th. She finished 12thon the QS.