Teen surfer to take on pros at Port Stephens
FAR North Coast teenager Zahli Kelly has been awarded a wildcard from the World Surf League to compete in the Port Stephens New South Wales Pro Women's Qualifying Series event.
Kelly, 15, has moved around a lot on the North Coast and is now based at Cabarita, where she surfs in plenty of FNC events.
She took out two events on the WSL Australia/ Oceania Junior Qualifying Series to become regional champion and locked herself a spot in the World Junior Championships.
Although qualifying points are not especially important to her at this stage of her career, she is excited to have the opportunity to compete alongside some of her idols.
"I'm super stoked and honoured to have received the wildcard spot from WSL,” Kelly said. "It's really exciting to compete against the best women surfers in the world.
"It gives me an opportunity to step up and push my competitive surfing to another level.
"I surfed at Port Stephens earlier in the year and won the event so I'm excited to get back there and am definitely confident.”
Kelly is hoping to soak up her experience surfing in a QS event and utilise the lessons learned when she heads to Kiama in January for her first World Junior Championships.
The FNC is not short of female surfing talent, with Lennox Head teenager Nyxie Ryan another one rising up the ranks.
"What I will gain most from this experience will be feeling more comfortable surfing against the best in the world,” Kelly said.
"I think the more I get the opportunity to have heats against the top women the more it will feel just like any other heat. When you feel comfortable you always surf your best.”
Someone who was in a similar position to Kelly last year is current women's World Junior Champion Macy Callaghan.
Callaghan went from regional JQS champion to winning the world junior title in Kiama earlier this year.
She now heads to Port Stephens with a chance to qualify for the elite Championship Tour in 2018.
"This event is really important to me and to a lot of girls that are on the cusp of qualifying for the CT,” Callaghan said.
"There are a lot of points on offer and the ratings are very close, so it will be very exciting.”
The Port Stephens event starts on November 2.