Gold Coast, Australia (Friday 27th February, 2009): UNDERDOGS Corey Ziems (Currumbin, Qld) and Ashleigh Smith (Cabarita, NSW) will get to surf against the world's best after winning wildcards into the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro's presented by LG Mobile at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast today.
Ziems will now face world no.3 Taj Burrow (Yallingup, Aus) in round one of the season-opening ASP men's world tour event. Smith will also have her work cut out having drawn best friend and two-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore (Aus) at her local break of Snapper Rocks in the ASP women's world tour event.
20-year-old Smith proved too good in the highly-anticipated Roxy Pro trials final, going from strength-to-strength to beat Coolangatta surfer Ellie-Jean Coffey (14, Qld), Gold Coast based Kiwi surfer Sarah Mason (13, Tugun, Qld) and Lennox Head star Tyler Wright (14, NSW) to secure the lone wildcard into the world tour event.
In winning the final 13.85 to Coffey's 11.75, Smith overcome three much younger opponents.
With the average age of professional surfers getting younger each year, Smith was pleased to end the run of her teenage opponents.
"They've all been ripping out there," said Smith. "I just went out and had fun and kept doing what I was doing." I wasn't even expecting to win. I can't believe it's happened. It's crazy."
The Cabarita natural foot, who went to school with Gilmore at Kingscliff High in the state's north, says they've been dreaming of the day that they could surf at their local break with just two of them out.
"We've been saying since we were grommets that we would love a heat at Snapper together," she said.
"It's finally going to happen. It's so cool."
South Africa's Roseanne Hodge will be the third surfer drawn against Smith and Gilmore when the main round of the ASP women's world tour event commences.
Currumbin carver Ziems is the toast of the Gold Coast after bouncing back from a serious back injury to win the lone remaining Quiksilver Pro wildcard.
Ziems, who broke his back while surfing the infamous Banzai Pipeline while surfing in Hawaii in November, was on fire in a high-scoring, four-man final, accumulating a pair of 9's (9.00 & 9.20) to edge out 2007 Quiksilver Pro trials winner Dale Richards (Coolangatta, QLD, 17.75), reigning Queensland champion Shaun Gossmann (Snapper Rocks, QLD, 17.75) and Hawaiian Kiron Jabour (13.75). "I can't believe it," said Ziems.
"It's pretty amazing. I've been in these trials four times now. Every year I've had a shock and been wave starved."
"This event has been the opposite for me. I found the waves and it all paid off."
Ziems, 25, now joins recently retired Byron Bay World Tour surfer Danny Wills (Aus) and Sunshine Coast rising star Julian Wilson (Coolum, Aus) as the third and final main event wildcard.
Both trials events have a history of unearthing future stars with Gilmore winning the Roxy trials as a 17-year-old in 2005 before going on to win the main event.
More recently, 14-year-old Hawaiian Carissa Moore won the Roxy trials and went on to make the final of the main event.
Meanwhile, The ASP World Champions' Crowning was staged in a black tie affair at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre last night.
Surfing's "night of nights", the ASP World Champions' Crowning, was a gala event, hosting the world's best surfers as well as distinguished figures from the surfing industry in honor of the 2008 ASP World Champions.
Kelly Slater (USA), 37, reigning and nine-time ASP World Champion, accepted his unprecedented ninth ASP World Title award before beginning his hunt for an incredible 10th Crown at the upcoming Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast presented by LG Mobile which looks set to commence tomorrow.
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 21, reigning two-time ASP Women's World Champion, received her second consecutive ASP Women's World Title cup, and the young natural-footer will soon embark on a campaign to make it a three-peat in 2009. Gilmore will begin this weekend at the opening event of the 2009 ASP Women's World Tour season, the Roxy Pro Gold Coast presented by LG Mobile.
The season-opening ASP women’s world tour event the US$90,000 Roxy Pro presented by LG Mobile and the opening men’s world tour event, the US$340,000 Quiksilver Pro presented by LG Mobile will commence on Saturday February 28th and run through to March 11th.
Both world tour events are mobile, granting access to some of the best surf breaks on the planet. The tournament will be based at Snapper Rocks yet can travel from Stradbroke Island to Duranbah Beach on the Qld/NSW state border in search of optimum waves.