Words courtesy World Surf League 

The Burton Automotive Pro is off to an excellent start in what is a landmark 30th year of running in the surf rich region of Newcastle, NSW Australia. Situated at Merewether Beach, the cultivating ground for so many former great Australian surfers including four-time World Surf League (WSL) World Champion Mark Richards along with other greats the likes of Nicky Wood, Matt Hoy, Simon Law and Luke Egan, the men’s QS6000 (Qualifying Series) division began in wind swept high performance 3 foot surf that provided good sections for some power packed performances.

While Merewether boasts great champions of the past, there’s presently no shortage of excellent surfers from here and Jake Sylvester flew the flag for the locals with strong and convincing heat win in the second heat of the day. Sylvester defeated emerging 17-year-old USA surfer Kanoa Igarashi with both surfers advancing in the 4-Man heat.

“My knowledge of the waves here helps for sure and mid heat I was able to find an ideal wave that really made the difference,” Sylvester said, referring to a wave that scored him a 7.83 (out of a possible 10) which he milked for all it was worth before stepping off onto the sand.

“I caught more waves than I intended to and that wasn’t part of the plan, but the conditions meant a good wave would score well. I haven’t been surfing much here over summer as the waves have been terrible until the last week."

Parker Coffin (CA/USA) opened the event with an impressive display of precision driven power surfing. Coffin was super selective, catching just the required two waves in the 25 minute heat, but he made certain they were keepers scoring an opening 7.83 ride followed by an excellent 9-point-ride to take the highest scoring heat win of the day over yesterday’s Hunter Business Boardriders Pro Junior event champion Brazilian Deivid Silva.

A number of Brazilian surfers revelled in today’s beach break conditions. Round 1 heat winners from Brazil included Ian Gouveia, Krystian Kymerson, Flavio Nagagima, Hizunome Bettero, Thiago Camarao and Pedro Henrique.

Today’s morning press conference was a surfing star studded affair with Mark Richards and 2012 World Champion and event No. 1 seed Joel Parkinson. Surfest is one of Parkinson’s favourite events on the WSL Calendar, he took the event title back in 2013 and wants it back this year.

“I love Newcastle, there’s great surf everywhere here and this is an ideal event for me to warm up my competitive act,” said Parkinson. “I’m here to win, it’s a great event and to win in the 30th year would be special so I’ll give it everything.”

A big swell is forecast from Thursday through to the Finals on the weekend and Mark Richards predicts this could be one of the best ever Burton Automotive Pro’s.

"If it’s 10 feet plus and breaking way out on the second and third reef then it will be amazing to watch these guys perform in some very serious surf - Let’s hope the forecast’s are correct!"

News, results and to watch the event LIVE visit www.Surfest.com

About the 2015 Surfest Newcastle Australia

The 2015 Surfest Newcastle Australia features international fields of competitive surfers in the Burton Automotive Pro ( World Surf League Men's Qualifying Series 6000 point event), the Burton Automotive Womens Classic (World Surf League Women’s Qualifying Series 1000 point event) and the Hunter Business Boardriders Pro Junior (World Surf League Mens Regional Qualifying Series 1000 point event) along with 11 other surfing events.  The event is made possible with the support of the Burton Automotive Group, the Hunter Business Boardriders, Newcastle City Council and the NSW Government through Destination NSW. In 2015, Surfest Newcastle Australia will, for the very first time, host events in three coastal local government areas in New South Wales' Hunter Region - Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens.

Surfest Newcastle Australia commences on February 1 with trials in the Port Stephens local government area and concludes at Merewether beach on February 22 where another champion will add his name to the Mark Richards Perpetual Trophy that reads like a "Who's Who" of professional surfing. Merewether beach is a recognised Australian National Surfing Reserve and home to festival patron and Australia’s most accomplished men’s world professional surfing champion, four-time world champion Mark Richards (1979-82).

2015 marks the festival’s 30th anniversary and with over 800 national and international competitors from more than two dozen countries, Surfest Newcastle Australia is the largest festival of surfing in the southern hemisphere. Get up-to-the minute updates, photos and interviews, as well as the program of events at surfest.com.