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GALLERY: Baker revels in hometown Surfest

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Local heroes Jackson Baker and Ryan Callinan made cameo appearances at Merewether Beach for day two of the City of Newcastle Pro.

The Qualifying Series (QS) 5000 event, a vital component of the 36th edition of Surfest, welcomed the three-to-four-foot surf on Wednesday 30 March but probably not the windy conditions.

Despite that, the highly sought-after tournament also featured the likes of Portugal’s Frederico Morais, Italy’s Leonardo Fioravanti, Merewether resident Julian Wilson, along with Australia and Oceania’s best up and coming surfers, all battling it out for a spot on the 2022 World Surf League (WSL) WSL Challenger Series.

However, looking more comfortable than ever at his home break was 2022 Championship Tour (CT) rookie Baker.

He claimed an easy heat win in his opening round match-up.

“It feels really cool to be back competing at Surfest,” Baker said.

“It’s always such a fun week here at home and I’m excited this year to enjoy it for what it is and not be too stressed about QS points.

“I can just focus on putting on a show for my hometown, which is cool.

“This is also a great opportunity to surf some heats.

“On the CT, you don’t surf many heats unless you’re winning the things, so this is great to get time in the jersey.

“I’ve seen Ryan (Callinan) is on the other side of the draw.

“So, hopefully, we can both get the job done and meet in the final.

“That would guarantee a local winner which would be so good.” 

Fioravanti, meanwhile, is one of two international CT competitors using this week to warm up for Bells as he continues searching for a breakthrough result in 2022.

The Italian star has been competing in Newcastle for almost a decade now and is happy to be back and enjoying the challenges the regional QS competitors are throwing at him. 

“I’m so happy to be in Newcastle again, I love this place,” Fioravanti said.

“I had ankle surgery in the off-season, so I am still trying to work myself back into form.

“So, this is a great opportunity to do that.

“It looks like there is some great swell on the way so it could look a bit like Bells out here over the weekend.

“There are a few CT guys in the event and it would be cool to all meet up on finals day but, honestly, the level here in Australia is crazy high.

“There are young surfers here who I’ve never heard of before and they’re ripping.

“So, we’re all going to have our work cut out for us.”

Fioravanti’s travel partner Morais has also entered competition in Newcastle with the hopes of getting as much time as possible in the jersey ahead of the Australian leg of the CT.

His opening round heat wasn’t as smooth as his fellow CT competitors as he progressed in second place to local wildcard Joshua Levey who, in his first ever QS5,000 appearance, overcame one of his heroes with a fantastic display of surfing in the tricky conditions.

Both Levey and the “Portuguese Prince” will progress into the round of 32. 

“I’m pretty speechless to be honest,” Levey said.

“I was just so thankful to get this opportunity to surf in an event of this size at my home break and share the water with one of the best in the world.

“To get a win over Freddy is so crazy, I feel really blessed to have found the waves I did and make it through that one.” 

Earlier in the day, the AAP Consulting Women’s Pro saw the completion of the round of 64 with standout performances from Freya Prumm, Kobie Enright and Nyxie Ryan who had the top three heat totals of the round.

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