Chasing a score against Jadson Andre in their quarter-final match up at Newcastle’s Burton Automotive Pro, Mikey Wright smashed out three, front-side belts on a dribbling one-foot right; it wasn’t deep enough to paddle back out so Mikey sprinted through the Newcastle shallows with high knees. This was Mikey Wright, surfing’s punk prince acting like the consummate professional and in no way disguising his ambitions to crush opposition and claim a spot on the championship tour. Although Mikey had been an ominous competitive presence all week at Surfest, on finals day it was blaringly apparent that something had shifted for the intriguing natural footer.

Mikey Wright powering to victory in the Burton Automotive Pro yesterday. Photo: WSL/Bennett

In the peaky, Merewether wind-slop some felt that perhaps Mikey’s ferocious run would come to an end against fly-weight competitors, however after dispatching Andre in the quarters Mikey powered past limber, American goofy footer Evan Geiselman in the semis.

In the finals Mikey squared up against the new darling of pro surfing, Hawaiian Barron Mamiya. 18-year-old Mamiya (who is Michael Ho’s godson) had looked sharp all event but we were yet to see any of the aerial antics that have made his instagram account a handbook for progressively inclined grommets.

Mikey was happy to power-saw through the Mamiya hype by unleashing his stretched frame on a couple of wedging left shoreys. An early 7.5 was soon eclipsed by a nine-point ride as the screams of Mikey’s fan club carried beyond the howling southerly.

Newcastle's Surfest always draws a crowd. Photo:WSL/Bennett

Mid-way through the final Mikey had Barron Mamiya floundering in a combination situation. One of the form surfers of the event for the first time all week, Barron was confronted with a situation he had to try and fight his way out of it. Mamiya looked to the sky to save him, launching a series of startling backside rotations on the windy, left ramps. These were not garden-variety air revs and the lofted approach definitely challenged the judges to look closely at the criteria, the best of them earning him an 8.17 and another a clean eight.

However, just when Barron rotated out of the combination doldrums Mikey sent him right back there with another high-velocity, three turn, backside combo, which netted him a 9.2. By heats end Mikey had amassed an emphatic 18.2 heat total and a couple of throw-aways that still would have won him the heat. Mamiya was undeniably valiant in his lofted pursuit of Mikey and the young Hawaiian's performance throughout the week certainly suggests he is also destined for a WCT debut in the near future.

Responding to questions on the winner’s stage, Mikey proved popular with local fans for his frank commentary and ability to make light of his famed mullet. “I saw there was that mullet festival on this weekend and I probably should have gone to it … and as I was coming up the beach I saw this grommet and thought, wow that kids got a great mullet. ” 

Later, Mikey adopted a more serious tone when asked by Tracks about what had changed in his attitude towards the WQS. “I went into it with my heart in it this year instead of the other years when I was just sort of doing it. ”

Mikey couldn’t guarantee that he would be given a wildcard into the Quiksilver Pro by his major sponsors, but he was certainly clear about what his intentions are if he does get the call up for Snapper Rocks. “I’m not too sure about that yet, but I’m hoping … It would be good to get in there and mix it up with the CT guys and try and smoke them.”

Coco Ho hoists the Hawaiian flag high as she celebrates victory at Surfest. Photo: WSL/Bennett

While Mikey’s victory set up his quest for WCT qualification, Coco Ho’s win over Tyler Wright in the Grandstand Sports Physio Women’s Pro, should provide her with a lot of confidence going into this year’s championship tour. Many qualified observers have long-considered Coco as a surfer with the talent to challenge for the world title and defeating the current world champion in yesterday’s final is likely to deliver a fresh-injection of self-belief to her 2018 campaign. 

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