TOP SEED: Julian Wilson surfing at the Rio Pro last year. Wilson will return to Surfest next month for the first time in three years. Picture: Getty ImagesTOP-10 surfers Julian Wilson and Sally Fitzgibbons will head a bumper field of 347 entrants for the men’s and women’s pro events at Surfest next month.
World No.6 Wilson, who was hailed for his bravery when Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark at the J-Bay Open in South Africa last year, is the highest-ranked surfer among the 232 who have entered the men’sevent, a 6000-point round of the Qualifying Series.
Wilson last competed at Surfest in 2013 when part of the contest was held inside Newcastle Harbour.
The men’s field includes Hawaiian hot shot Keanu Asing, Avoca’s Adrian Buchan andMerewether’s Ryan Callinan, who will line upat Surfest for the first time since qualifying for the elite World Surf League tour.
Julian Wilson in 2015 The record number of entrants will force organisers to hold international trials on February 21, the day before the QS events are due to start.
World No.3 Fitzgibbons is among 115 surfers nominated for the women’s 6000-point QS event and one of 20 across the men’s and women’s drawswho ply their trade in the WSL.
“It’s fantastic to see them here as our number-one seeds and representing Australia in such good form,” organiser Warren Smith said of Wilson and Fitzgibbons.
The Women’s Pro, which was crowd-funded by 73 Hunter businesses, has also attracted six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore, world No.9 Nikki Van Dijk,Laura Enever, HawaiiansMalia Manuel, Coco Ho and Tatiana Weston-Webb andMerewether’sPhilippa Anderson, who was runner-up last year.