Ex-champ is back for malibu classic
PROFESSIONAL surfer Jared Neal will attempt to win the open nine-foot division at the Evans Head Malibu Classic for a third time.
Neal won the event in 2011 and 2013 and is back, having not competed for the past couple years.
He will be come up against the likes of defending champion Scott Channon, Dean Bevan and Paul Scholten.
The event promises to be an emotional one following the untimely death of Gold Coast surfer Joel Tilley this week.
Tilley won the event in 2016, with former event winner Dane Pioli and other surfers set to compete in a memorial heat at some point over the weekend.
"Dane and a few other guys want to come down and surf a memorial heat,” organiser Ross Cribb said.
"They're a pretty tight-knit group and he (Tilley) was a really competitive guy who kept everyone on their toes. We might make that the last heat Saturday or after the final on Monday, not sure yet.”
The four-day event will start tomorrow with the open eight-foot division before most competitors hit the water on Saturday.
Evans Head surfer Samantha Cribb is back to defend her open women's title with about 140 surfers in all expected to compete in the 28th running of the event.
Other local surfers to watch include Geordie Forsyth, Sam Ticknor and Isabella Braly.
"Isabella will surf against the men in the under-40 loggers and she'll give them a run for their money,” Cribb said.
"Isaac Fields is another talented local and Sam (Ticknor) is a NSW junior champion, so he'll be one to watch.”
Spectators are welcome, with conditions expected to be best for surfing on Sunday and Monday.
It is an early start on Saturday with heats from 6.20am.
The presentation at the Evans Head Bowling Club will be at 3pm Monday, after the open men's final.
The Evans Head Surf Club will be open for meals over the weekend with coast guard and other safety measures in place for surfers.
"People love the event and once you park your car in the caravan park, you're free to roam around on foot until you leave,” Cribb said.
"They bring the whole family sometimes so we get a few hundred here and I still have people calling to enter today that I've had to put on the reserve list.”