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Callum Robson And Caitlin Simmers Surge Atop First Challenger Series Event: 2022 Gold Coast Pro.
A critical start to the Challenger Series unfolded to conclude the Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro presented by Rip Curl with Caitlin Simmers and Callum Robson rising to the top of their respective fields.
After 4 days straight of flawless waves at Snapper Rocks, the front edge of a massive East Coast Low began to show its face off the Gold Coast which caused wild and wooly conditions for a vital Finals Day finish. With competitors battling in strong-onshore winds and three-to-five foot waves that grew bigger by each heat. The conditions never detracted from the action with massive scores being dropped throughout the day.
Today's victory marked the second Challenger Series win for 16-year-old Simmers after her victory at the US Open of Surfing in 2021. Eventually qualifying for the Championship Tour (CT), Simmers declined the spot and Molly Picklum received entry as the next on the qualification list. Given how close they were on the 2021 Challenger Series rankings, it was no surprise to see the two matched up in the first Final of the Challenger season here at Snapper Rocks
"I'm so happy to win the first Challenger Series event of the year," said Simmers. "It was really tough out there and I didn't even know where I was for half of the heat. I was kind of just guessing on that last one and I guess I got the score, but Molly is my favorite surfer. She's so gnarly so it's so fun to share the Final with her. My goals for the season are definitely to try and win the Challenger Series, I'd love to do that."
The Final between Simmers and Picklum witnessed an intense matchup as the two battled the stormy conditions for the first Challenger Series win of the season. Picklum stayed busy throughout the heat, locking in a 6.50 and 4.77 (each out of a possible 10). Although Simmers had a strong opening ride, she was left chasing a back-up score to overcome the Australian. In the final minute of the heat, Simmers utilized her priority for one last opportunity. Only needing a 5.45, Simmers overcame the requirement with a 6.03 to take the win away from Picklum.
"I'm a little disappointed," said Picklum. "It is always nice to take the win, but I am so stoked for Caity. She's an incredible surfer and an incredible competitor, and not everyone has those two things. I can't wait for our year together and hopefully, we will be in a bunch of Finals together. Of course, hopefully, I get her one of these Finals. I'm ready for Manly next week. That will be a different event surf wise but I'm looking forward to the next stop on the Challenger and this entire series."
The men's Final saw an all-Australian matchup between Robson and Gold Coast's own Sheldon Simkus. Robson, representing Evans Head, is a current rookie on the 2022 CT and carried over his recent success into today's Challenger Series Final to claim a win over Gold Coast local Simkus. The win marks Robson's first Challenger Series victory, following his breakthrough second-place result on the CT at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach last month.
"It's been a big day for me and an amazing event with fantastic surf and to win is incredible for me," said Robson. "The year to date has been better than I could have imagined. I've had enormous support from the entire community from my hometown at Evans Head to surf this tour and I'm stoked to repay them and put Evans Head on the map."
Hometown hero Simkus was a standout performer all event posting big scores and picking some of the best waves of the event, showing local knowledge is key at all locations around the world. In the end, Simkus fell just shy of the ultimate result but was proud to fly the Coolangatta flag on Finals Day in front of a home crowd of friends and family.
"It's been a huge few days for me and such fantastic surf at my home break for this great event," said Simkus. "It's been a goal of mine for a long time to surf in this event, I just scraped into the field this year and to make the Final and surf against Callum in front of my home crowd has been amazing. It's a really good start to the Challenger Series season and I have the confidence to keep going on this series."
Also notching massive results, Semifinalist Nolan Rapoza nearly secured a spot into the Final after overcoming former CT elite Leonardo Fioravanti in the Quarters and Julian Wilson in the Semifinals in dynamic fashion. Fellow Semifinalists Maxime Huscenot and 2022 CT rookie sensation Bettylou Sakura Johnson start their year off brilliantly as Huscenot looks to make his long-awaited dream come true and Sakura Johnson hopes to return following shining moments on Tour.
Australian icon Sally Fitzgibbons fell in the Semifinals to eventual winner Simmers. Fitzgibbons entered into the Challenger Series after missing the Mid-season Cut following the Margaret River Pro Championship Tour event. Although with a solid third-place finish at the Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro, Fitzgibbons was awarded WSL CT season wildcard for 2023 and will get to bypass Challenger Series qualification and rejoin the world's best surfers next season. As the 2023 WSL season wildcard, the 31-year-old will also be the first replacement surfer on the CT for the next half of the season.