LENNOX HEAD'S loss has been Newcastle's gain.
That's the only way to look at it after the World Surf League was forced to cancel the Bells Beach contest in Victoria for the second consecutive year as COVID-19 continued to throw world sport - along with the rest of humanity - into a degree of chaos and uncertainty not usually seen outside of wartime.
Newcastle's Surfest has been a regular stop on the pro-surfing circuit since its first year in 1985 but the advent of the "Dream Tour" - as it was originally known when wave quality, rather than beach-side audience, became the top Championship Tour destination criteria - has made it a second-tier Qualifying Series event.
The bigger QS competitions still attract plenty of CT surfers, and the global love that the surfing community shows for our four-time world champ Mark Richards means there are always plenty of top-flight athletes prepared to find a way to fit Newcastle into their crammed international travel schedules.
But to have the top 35 men - except for the injured 11-time world champion Kelly Slater - and 17 women all in Newcastle at once, as well as the two local wildcards, is a coup for the sport and for the region, and a treat for sports fans, even if the mandatory coronavirus restrictions have put unfortunate limitations on the number of spectators inside the formal contest area.
The tour's shift to exotic and often isolated locations - G-Land in Java, Teahupoo in Tahiti and Cloudbreak in Fiji to name three - might have been driven by a desire to have great surfers face off in the best surf, but it's been enabled by the incredible leaps in digital technology that allow the WSL to stream contests as they happen no matter where the surfers and the audiences are.
At first glance surfing might not seem like the easiest sport to broadcast, because the vagaries of nature - the Newcastle Cup has an 11-day window to ensure the event has the four to five days of good enough surf it needs to run through both the women's and the men's sides.
Then there's the waiting times between waves, but the WSL is constantly refining and innovating its web-casts to keep viewers entertained and informed.
Surf commentating is an art like any other sports calling and the WSL team, anchored by the diminutive Joe Turpel, the instantly recognisable voice of the CT.
Broadcasting on social media of course brings out the haters, and Joe's unflagging, chirpy American tones are an enthusiastic counterpoint to the more laconic drawl of the Aussie talking heads, led this time by Ronnie Blakey, who's parlayed his surf journalism, featuring stints at Tracks and Waves magazines, into a dream gig following the world's best surfers around the planet and talking about them - usually in that uniquely, self-deprecating Aussie way.
Other commentators this time include Aussie touring pro turned big wave rider, Laura Enever and Gold Coaster Stace Gailbraith.
WSL media manager Tom Bennett says there'll be plenty of surfing identities slipping behind the microphone to have their say.
Yes, the Merewether foreshore will be the surf, sun and sand centre of the universe until April 11, but the Herald's coverage will keep you up to date, as will the juggernaut that is the WSL.
THE HERALD'S TOP HUNTER SURFERS SERIES SO FAR:
- Ten point rides: Newcastle's best surfers across the decades
- 'Girls can't surf?' Yes they can. And how
- Boardriding brilliance on the bus from Wallsend: Kelly Bashford
- Longer hair, shorter boards: Peter Cornish
- 'Radical Roger' Clements, with rare 1968 video footage
- Opposite ends: Smooth Belinda Baggs and the frantic Sabre Norris
- The impossibly stylish Craig Anderson
- Paige Haggerston: Aussie champ at 17
- The tropical life of Peter McCabe
- Merewether pioneers Pam Lane, Nancy Newburn and Judy Clements
- Young guns Amelie Bourke and Ellie Lambkin
- Revered at Redhead: 'the other' Col Smith
- Bells Beach winner at 16: Nicky Wood
- Elle Clayton-Brown riding the WQS table
- Hell-raiser, Bells winner, Matt Hoy
- Sarah Baum finds a new home in Newcastle
- Ryan Callinan, Championship Tour charger on a mission
- Remembering Blacksmiths battler Michelle Donoghoe
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