South Africans Jordy Smith and Bianca Buitendag have joined the world’s best surfers who are converging on Australia’s Gold Coast for the opening events of the 2015 World Surf League (WSL) Tour.
The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast for men and the Roxy Pro Gold Coast for women will be held from February 28 to March 11 in Coolangatta, Queensland, with the renowned hollow tubes of Snapper Rocks the headquarters for the events which run concurrently.
The WSL features the Top 34 male and Top 17 female surfers on the planet as they compete on an international, 20-event tour in the hunt for the undisputed world surfing crown.
Smith ended the 2014 season in 7th place on the rankings after a stellar last third of the year that saw the Durban raised 27 year-old claim his fourth career CT event title at Trestles near his new home in San Clemente, California in September.
He went on to finish 3rd in France and runner-up in Portugal, both in October, climbing seven places in six weeks.
Touted as a potential WSL World Champion ever since finishing runner-up to Kelly Slater (USA) in the 2010 season, just his second on the elite tour, Smith will be going all out to kickstart his 2015 campaign with a great result at the opening event where 50% of the winners over the past decade have gone on to clinch that year’s world title.
Buitendag, who finished her second season amongst the world’s top 17 ranked women also ranked No. 7, will be hoping to go one better than her sensational runner-up finish to eventual 2014 Women’s World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) at Snapper Rocks last year.
The 21 year-old from Victoria Bay in the Southern Cape, like Smith the tallest competitor on tour, will be determined to win her first CT event and break into the top 5 in the world this year.
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Ricardo Christie (ZAF)
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA), Fredrick Patacchia (HAW), C.J. Hobgood (USA)
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW), Jadson Andre (BRA), Glenn Hall (IRL)
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS), Matt Banting (AUS), TBD
Heat 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), TBD
Heat 7: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Kai Otton (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Heat 8: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Filipe Toledo (BRA), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 9: Taj Burrow (AUS), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 10: Josh Kerr (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 11: Kolohe Andino (USA), Julian Wilson (AUS), Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 12: Owen Wright (AUS), Nat Young (USA), Adam Melling (AUS)
Roxy Pro Gold Coast Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW), Johanne Defay (FRA), Sage Erickson (USA)
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Courtney Conlogue (USA), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Silvana Lima (BRA), TBD
Heat 4: Tyler Wright (AUS), Dimity Stoyle (AUS), Alessa Quizon (HAW)
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW), Laura Enever (AUS), Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW)
Heat 6: Lakey Peterson (USA), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF), Coco Ho (HAW)