I was lucky enough to visit Australia once. Back in 2008, I qualified online to play in the Aussie Millions poker tournament. The trip package included airfare, two weeks stay at the Crown Casino in Melbourne and my buy-in for the Main Event. It was a long way to travel from New Jersey and the extended stay allowed me to check out the sites, meet up with some Aussie friends, check out a few Australian Open tennis matches and spend more than my fair share of time at the tables or in the bar.
But the actual poker tournament did not pay dividends. I had traveled more than 10,000 miles and played fewer than four hours before being knocked out. A guy named Lee Nelson, who had won the same event for about $1.3 million two years earlier, busted me early on Day 1.
Well, it’s only about 5,000 miles from Kauai to Newcastle, Australia, which is along the country’s eastern seaboard. The QS6000 Burton Automotive Pro, which also goes by the much better moniker of “Surfest,” got kick started this week with 19 Hawaii surfers among the competitors. Some of our representatives had better luck than I did, but most will be spending the majority of their trip at the bar or in the crowded lineup, rather than wearing a jersey.
Just two of the 19 made it into the third round of competition, though Kilauea’s Koa Smith was almost among that select group before being eliminated late Thursday (Friday locally). The two remaining are Championship Tour rookie Keanu Asing and young powerhouse Ezekiel Lau.
Smith got off to a hot start. He’s been performing really well during this early season run through Australia and was one of the few Hawaii standouts at this Newcastle break. With about seven minutes left in his first round, he popped off the heat’s best score with a 7.50 to move into first place. He backed it up and extended his lead a few minutes later to win the heat and move into round two.
This time it was a quick start that helped Smith advance from a stacked heat against Costa Rica’s Carlos Munoz, Aussie Ryan Callinan and Brazil’s Victor Bernardo. He had the first wave of consequence and scored an 8.17 to move into first. Munoz and Callinan each jumped ahead and traded the lead for the next 10 minutes but Smith picked up a 5.27 as a backup to sneak ahead of Callinan into second. Those positions held up and Munoz and Smith advanced into round three.
That would be where Koa’s contest came to a close. It was a tight heat ultimately won by Brazil’s Alejo Muniz. France’s Adrien Toyon made a late jump to take over second place, including just the day’s second nine-point ride. Smith needed a 7.71 in the late stages but wasn’t able to find it in the lineup.
Lau and Asing are into the fourth round after each survived competitive round three heats. Asing had a bye into the second round and has won each of his two heats after Thursday’s action. Lau won his first two heats, then took second in the third round to now reach the final 24 competitors.
Everyone remaining is guaranteed an Equal 17th finish and 1,050 rankings points. As a QS6000 contest, it offers one of the best opportunities to make a big jump up the Qualifying Series rankings. Top seed Joel Parkinson doesn’t really need the QS results to expect continued invitations on the world tour, but Parko is giving Newcastle a go. He’s into the fourth round after a pair of heat victories. Other favorites still alive include Muniz, Mitch Coleborn, Willian Cardoso, Jack Freestone and Evan Geiselman.
Action progressed Thursday into round four. Results of those heats were unavailable as of press time. For more event information, visit surfest.com.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.