|Isabella Nichols (AUS) and Cole Houshmand (USA) have won the GWM Sydney Surf Pro Presented by Bonsoy, Stop No.2 of the 2023 World Surf League (WSL) Challenger Series. The pair overcame a huge field and an array of conditions, to claim victory in solid six-to-eight foot surf at North Narrabeen on Finals Day.|
Nichols Overcomes Fitzgibbons in All-Australian Final
Less than a month after the disappointment of falling short of the Mid-season Cut and losing her spot on the Championship Tour (CT), Isabella Nichols (AUS) has bounced back with a win at the GWM Sydney Surf Pro. After a slow start to her requalification campaign on the Gold Coast, Nichols is well and truly back on track to regain her position at the elite level with her impressive win today.
“This is not what I expected at the beginning of this week,” Nichols said. “In all honesty, I was considering not coming to this event because I just wasn’t in a great headspace. It’s been a really tough year for me and my confidence has been really low so it’s crazy to be here now having won the event. I just surrounded myself with great people and with plenty of positivity and it’s made such a difference.”
In the Final, Nichols came up against competitive veteran Sally Fitzgibbons(AUS) who had been the standout performer at North Narrabeen all week. With the solid surf and predominately left-handers on offer, Fitzgibbons’s experience looked like it would give her an edge but Nichols had other ideas, posting a two-wave total of 13.84 which included an excellent 8.14 single wave. Nichols now sits at No. 3 on the rankings heading into the Ballito Pro this July.
“It was so solid out there,” Nichols continued. “I was really anxious before heading out and we both copped a few massive waves on the head. It was good to finally get a few waves and challenge myself. I’ve discovered so much about myself that I didn’t know before.”
Similarly to Nichols, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) lost her spot on the CT after the Mid-season Cut and has returned to the Challenger Series and set a high standard immediately, finishing third and second in back-to-back events. Fitzgibbons’ result today has locked her in at second place on the rankings and well on her way back to the elite level, battling for World Titles once again.
“This trophy is so special – it’s a tough journey to get to the podium these days,” Fitzgibbons said. “The women’s tour is in such a good place and there are a lot of women who deserve to be up here today. I love the support we get here from the locals; there’s been such good energy getting sent out way all week.”
Cole Houshmand Posts Event High Total for Career First Win
Cole Houshmand (USA) started his Challenger Series campaign off with a first-round elimination at the Gold Coast and came to North Narrabeen needing a massive result to get his year back on track. The 22-year-old San Clemente local found form early and fed off the energy of his fellow Californians who were cheering him on from the beach all week as he built through the event to book a spot in the Final.
“I’m kind of speechless right now,” Houshmand said. “It all worked out in my favour and all the hard work is paying off so I’m so stoked. This tour is insane, there is so much talent and so many people who deserve to be on tour so to make it this far means a lot. You go into every event wanting to win but it’s not that easy; these events are really challenging so I’m stoked to break away and get my first win.”
Coming up against Jacob Willcox (AUS) in the Final, Houshmand was going to have to put on a strong performance, and that’s exactly what he did, posting the highest single wave score and heat total of the event. Houshmands 18.97 two-wave total included a near-perfect 9.80 which he was rewarded for his committed powerful approach in the chunky beachbreak peaks. The total was too much for Willcox to chase down, leaving Houshmand to take the biggest win of his young career.
“I’ve loved my time here in Narrabeen,” Houshmand continued. “We’ve had pumping waves the whole time and a lot of fun with the local crew and all the boys I’m travelling with. I’ll definitely be coming back.”
Jacob Willcox (AUS) has continued his great start to the 2023 Challenger Series season. The exciting young goofy-footer has narrowly missed CT qualification on multiple occasions but has his campaign off to a flying start with back-to-back Finals Day appearances. Although he fell short of the win today, Willcox’s runner-up finish is the best of his career and has rocketed him to No. 1 on the Challenger Series rankings.
“Getting second is tough but I’m still feeling really good about this,” Willcox said. “After two events last year I had two last-place finishes and today I have a fifth and a second so I’m in a bit of a different spot right now. It was really challenging out there but it was definitely awesome to get some powerful surf. It was good to surf with Cole, he was ripping all week and I’m stoked to be sitting in this position now.”
For highlights from today’s GWM Sydney Surf Pro Presented by Bonsoy competition, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.
GWM Sydney Surf Pro Men’s Final Result:
1. Cole Houshmand (USA) 18.97
2. Jacob Willcox (AUS) 13.23
GWM Sydney Surf Pro Women’s Final Result:
1. Isabella Nichols (AUS) 13.84
2. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 10.14
GWM Sydney Surf Pro Men’s Semifinal Results:
HEAT 1: Cole Houshmand (USA) 15.33 DEF. Jackson Baker (AUS) 13.00
HEAT 2: Jacob Willcox (AUS) 13.13 DEF. Marco Mignot (FRA) 7.87
Next Stop: Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill
The next stop on the 2023 WSL Challenger Series will be the Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill which will run from July 9 – 17. ThisChallenger Series event will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, the free WSL app, and the WSL’s YouTube channel. Also, check out more ways to watch from the WSL’s broadcast partners.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com. The GWM Sydney Surf Pro is proudly supported by GWM, Bonsoy, Destination NSW, Northern Beaches Council, YETI, Boost Mobile, Harvey Norman, NRMA Parks & Resorts, Bond University, Oakberry, Coopers, Bailey Ladders and Bioglan.