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Winter Vincent. Photo: WSL/Anderson

19-year-old’s fairytale run in Newcastle leads to challenger series qualification

Winter Vincent will be swapping the pro juniors for a crack at qualifying for the big time.

Coming into the final Australian QS of the year in Newcastle, 19-year-old Winter Vincent was sitting in 13th on the rankings and needed to make the final of the 5,000 rated event to qualify for the Challenger Series.

Winter is the first to admit that he did not expect to make the Challenger Series during his first season on the QS. However, he surprised himself and went onto make the final in Newcastle, claiming second behind the eventual winner Joel Vaughan, and grabbed the last Australian spot on this year’s Challenger Series.

“It’s kind of surreal, it was my first year doing the QS series and so I didn’t have any expectations. I was sitting in 13th coming into Newcastle and everyone above me was making heats which meant I dropped into 16th. At that point I thought I might not make it and so it was actually a bit of a blessing in disguise, there was no pressure on me and I just went out there, surfed and enjoyed myself.”

Winter boosting on his way to a second place finish at the Burton Automotive Pro & Newcastle Racecourse Women’s Pro QS 5000. Photo: WSL/Anderson.

“It wasn’t until I got to the quarters that a mate of mine decided to do the math and work out the numbers. He told me that if I get past the semi’s I’ll make the Challenger Series. At that point I thought: ‘holy shit, I could actually do this.’”

The Manly local knocked out Mikey McDonagh and Riaru Ito on his way to the final and finished in 8th place on the Australian QS.

Only the top seven on the Australian men’s circuit usually qualify, but due to Morgan Cibilic’s double-qualification as a result of his ranking on last year’s Challenger Series, the final spot was handed to Winter in 8th place.

Winter added: “It’s such a big change in my life, I’m only 19 so I was originally going to spend the rest of the year focusing on the pro juniors and now suddenly I’m going to South Africa, Brazil and Portugal – which are all places I’ve never been before. I can’t quite believe it but it’s crazy to see it all come together.”

The 19-year-old will have been helped by the fact he had former CT competitor Julian Wilson in his corner during the Newcastle event.

Not a bad coach to have in your corner. Photo: WSL/Anderson

“I’ve known Julian since I was young but we hadn’t spoken in about three years. Prior to the contest I wanted to get some practice in at Newcastle, so I text him to see if he wanted to go surf. It’s been great having him here, he has shown full belief in me and so have many others. I think it was that support which really pushed me over the line and got me to the final.”

Having re-assessed his goals moving forward, Winter said he would love to win a Challenger event.

“Obviously qualifying for the CT is the ultimate dream but I really want to win an event. We have a big Aussie crew this year on the CS and I’m sure we can support and push each other to do well.”

He added: “I’m also really looking forward to surfing waves like Snapper with only a few guys out there, I’ve surfed there for years but always found it hard to get a wave with the crowds.”

Alongside Winter and Morgan, the other Australian men’s qualifiers from the QS were: Joel Vaughan, Dakoda Walters, Alister Reginato, Jarvis Earle, Tully Wylie and Oscar Berry.

The winners and runners up of the Newcastle QS: Winter Vincent (2nd), Joel Vaughan (1st), Ellie Harrison (1st) and Saffi Vette (2nd). Photo: WSL/Anderson.

Notable Aussie absentees from this year’s men’s Challenger Series include Sheldon Simkus and Jordy Lawler – both of whom have competed on the Challenger Series for the past three years.

On the women’s side Ellie Harrison, Paige Hareb, Philippa Anderson, Rosie Smart and Saffi Vette have all qualified for the Challenger Series which kicks off at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast on 27 April.

The second stop will see both the men and the women travel south to Sydney where they will compete at Narrabeen on the Northern Beaches from 9 May.

The CT hopefuls will then head to Ballito in July, Huntington in August, Ericeira in September before the final spots for the following year’s CT will be decided at Saquarema in Brazil.

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