Behold Australia’s Nine & NZ’s Two Challenger Series Qualifiers* - Stab Mag
Fun fact: No one who has won the Surfest hasn't gone on to make the CT. A good omen for Joel's 2023 Challenger Series campaign perhaps? Photo by WSL

Behold Australia’s Nine & NZ’s Two Challenger Series Qualifiers*

May the Southern Cross smile upon you at Snapper.

news // Mar 27, 2023
Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Editors note: this title may soon read ‘Behold Australia’s Ten & NZ’s Three Challengers* (based on the allocation of the regional wildcard to the next highest-ranked non-qualifier)

We almost witnessed brothers Hughie and Joel Vaughan close out the Surfest QS 5000 yesterday

The North Shelly boys, the former of whom was voted Stab’s Best Male Junior of the Year in 2022 thanks to his breakthrough performance at Stab High, had a commanding lead in his semi-final before a pre-heat chip roll was suspected to have caused a temporary brain aneurysm – resulting in handing George Pittar a wave under priority with two minutes on the clock. George’s two swooshes got the required 3.98 to see himself into the finals against older bro, Joel Vaughan. 

At Stab High it was noodles and hash browns. In Newy it was the iconic tomato-sauce laden Chip Roll. Mick Fanning, look away.

Joel ended up with the W, Hughie with a 3rd. Not unremarkable for the bros given the stacked draw of 128 men. 

On the women’s side, it was taken out by one of the sweetest females ever to grace the CT, Bronte Macaulay – who stabbed the lip repeatedly to hand Sarah Baum her second-running runner-up finish at Surfest.   

‘This is a lot of froth for a Q event,’ you might be thinking – here’s why Surfest really mattered. 

No one has ever won the event who hasn’t gone on to make the CT, and with Vaughan and Ronnie Blakey in the booth plus celeb appearances from Julian Wilson, it also has a bit more prestige worldwide than your average Mad Mex Maroubra. Most importantly however, it also determined which seven male and four female Oceania-dwellers qualified for the 2023 Challenger Series. 

Stab High/Highway star Reef Heazlewood takes number #1. Stab Innocents’ Jarvis takes #2.
Queue, ‘how does the wildcard allocation work?’ question. Queue convoluted response from the WSL. Based on points alone, it’s all Zahli’s to take.

While no official email has been sent to competitors it is assumed NZ’s Kehu Butler has taken the regional wildcard. This assumption is based on 1.) Jarvis Earle double-qualifying (World Junior Champ and #2 on QS rankings), and 2.) The number of beers Kehu (number #8 on the rankings) sucked back at The Prince last night. On the female side, Zahli Kelly currently ranked #5th is the most likely wildcard replacement based on points. 

The chuffed face of a (likely) wildcard.

Last week, JMD told Stab that the CS will run exactly as it did last year (minus Haleiwa) after whispers of a Challenged Series earlier in the year. Once again, 10 males and five females will qualify from the 2023 CS to next year’s CT, based on cumulative points earned from their best four CS results. The 2023 CS will also see the field reduced from 96 to 80 men and 64 to 48 women, and ditching the requirement for CT surfers to compete in two CS events. 

Here’s the official 2023 CS schedule: 

– Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro presented by GWM (Queensland, Australia): May 6 – 13, 2023
– GWM Sydney Surf Pro Presented by Bonsoy (New South Wales, Australia):May 17 – 24, 2023
– Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa): July 2 – 9, 2023
– US Open of Surfing presented by Pacifco (Huntington Beach, USA): July 29 – August 6
– EDP Vissla Pro Ericeira presented by Estrella Galicia (Ericeira, Portugal): October 1 – 8, 2023
– Corona Saquarema Pro (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil): October 14 – 21, 2023


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