Far North Coast to host Surftag qualifiers
FAR North Coast will host a qualifying round of the $15,000 Jim Beam Surftag for the first time in the event's 13-year history.
FNC teams previously have had to travel to Queensland to compete in one of the tougher qualifying rounds.
It opens the door for the Lennox-Ballina Boardriders and Byron Bay to be two of the stronger clubs with surfing to be held at either Ballina or Lennox Head on Saturday.
Le-Ba finished third overall last year after they were the national champions from the 2012 final at Lennox Head.
World Qualifying Series surfer Stuart Kennedy has been a regular for Le-Ba in recent years but is struggling to overcome a rib injury
"I don't really know what happened," Kennedy said.
"I did an air and landed in the flats and it got me; I'm not sure at the moment whether I'll compete.
"Hopefully I can get into it because you get pretty passionate about it when you're with all the boys."
Le-Ba last won the event when World Championship Tour surfers were still eligible.
World champion Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Owen Wright and Adam Melling have all surfed in the event
The format changed last year when the Association of Surfing Professionals wanted a sanction fee that Jim Beam decided not to pay.
"We can't have the CT guys like (Adam) Melling but I'm sure with whoever is around we'll still have a solid team," Kennedy said.
"We have a couple of really good local surfers and the Byron guys have some good ones too."
The winning team on Saturday will receive $1500 with the top three teams qualifying for the national final at Duranbah, Tweed Heads, on March 27.