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Huge field of internationals

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Twenty-nine countries have been represented at the two drawcard events on Surfest’s 2019 schedule this week.

Some of the best international surfers from the World Surf League (WSL)’s elite Championship Tours hit Merewether Beach on Monday for the Burton Automotive Pro and Holmes Civil Developments Pro competitions.

Top seeded male is world number two-ranked Australian Julian Wilson, while world number four Tatiana Weston-Webb carried the honour into the women’s tournament.

Surfest coordinator Warren Smith said he could not recall so many countries taking part before, while this year’s edition also attracted more than 300 entries.

Smith believed a sense of history around the biggest surfing festival in the southern hemisphere had helped draw both successful and emerging athletes to Newcastle.

Male competitors from the WSL Championship Tour include the likes of sixth-ranked Australian Owen Wright, Wade Carmichael (ranked ninth), Newcastle’s own Ryan Callinan, Italian Leonardo Fioravanti, Brazilians Jadson Andre and Jesse Mendes, and the USA’s Griffin Colapinto.

Hawaiian Coco Ho, the women’s 2018 champion, has returned to defend her title, alongside stars such as Sally Fitzgibbons (ranked sixth), France’s Johanne Defay (ranked fifth), New Zealand’s Paige Hareb, and the USA’s Caroline Marks (ranked seventh).

The two WSL Qualifying Series 6000 events wrap up this Sunday 17 March as part of an action-packed finale to Surfest.

The Evolution Corporate Charity Teams Cup for the Mark Hughes Foundation also takes place at Dixon Park on Friday (tomorrow), followed by The Drop Festival and Barrelled Food and Wine Festival.

Smith praised the Surfest sponsorship and marketing team for its hard work, particularly over the past couple of years.

“We’ve got a plan and we’re working towards it, I’m so pleased with [this year] so far,” he said.

“The growth of the sport, internationally and nationally, is really helping us – we believe we have got a great product to promote Newcastle and the Hunter Region.

“I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who want to take this event to new levels.”

 The Drop Festival, a music concert that features the likes of Angus and Julia Stone, The Jungle Giants, Ball Park Music and Alex the Astronaut, will start at King Edward Park at 4pm on Saturday 16 March.

Barrelled goes from 11am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday at Jefferson Park.

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