The countdown is on to Sydney’s biggest surf event, the 2016 Australian Open of Surfing.

The free, nine-day event combines world-class surf, skate, art and music in a celebration of youth culture at Manly Beach from February 27 – March 6.

Featuring both men and women’s WSL Qualifying Series 6000 contests, the event is owned and operated by IMG; with support from the NSW Government, through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, and Manly Council.

The Australian Open of Surfing will be headlined by Women’s defending champion Laura Enever and local star Matt Banting, and feature top international surfers Noah Beschen, Kanoa Igarashi, Evan Geiselman, Brett Simpson and Alana Blanchard.

This year’s event also includes a battle of the young guns in the new Sydney Grom Challenge, as well as a Sydney Champions Expression Session featuring former World Champions Barton Lynch, Tom Carroll, Damien Hardman and Mark ‘Occy’ Occhilupo taking to the water to compete as they did in the 80s and 90s.

“The Australian Open of Surfing at Manly is a fantastic event because it showcases everything we love about summer in Australia – surf, sun, skating, music, art and much more,” said World Surfing League (WSL) Australasia Tour Manager Will Hayden-Smith. “The WSL loves having such a large-scale event filled with over 200 of the world’s most elite surfers right on Sydney’s doorstep.”

Seen as the birthplace of professional surfing, Manly will once again host some of surfing’s biggest names; with South Africa, New Zealand, Brazil, USA, Japan, France, Spain and Portugal all sending surfers to the event.

NSW Premier and Member for Manly Mike Baird said the line-up would attract big crowds to Manly Beach across all nine days of competition.

“I’d like to congratulate the organisers for once again securing a top quality field of surfers, with our top locals going head to head against some of some great international competitors in both the Men’s and Women’s divisions,” Mr Baird said.

“Sydney’s Northern Beaches community is ready to welcome thousands of local, interstate and international visitors, making Manly the place to be from 27 February.”

After taking some time out with a knee injury in 2015, Matt Banting is back and ready to kick-start the 2016 world surf tour season with a win at the Australian Open of Surfing.

At just 22, Banting already has a strong connection with the Australian Open of Surfing – taking the title for both the Open and Junior Men’s Divisions in 2012.

Other QS6000 competitors include Australian Indigenous Champion Soli Bailey and Noah Beschen, son of former world #2 Shane Beschen, from the USA

Considered a surf prodigy from just 9 years of age, 14 year-old Beschen grew up on the surfing mecca of Hawaii’s North Shore and starred in last year’s, The Wild, a stunning surfing short film that won the 2015 REDirect Surf Film Festival Grand Prize.

Another leading America’s next generation of surfing world title contenders is Kanoa Igarashi, Evan Geiselman and Brett Simpson .

The 19-year old Igarashi has surfed since he was three, has an explosive style that includes aerial manoeuvres and has a record 30 NSSA wins to his name.  With his Japanese family history, Igarashi also has a massive following in Japan.

On his return to the Australian Open of Surfing, Cooper Chapman has a point to prove. The 20-year old North Narrabeen local has fire in his belly, after taking the big stage with some big names last year.

Queensland Surfer Mitch Crews is a topic of interest both in and out of the water.  At 19 years old he was diagnosed with a debilitating arthritis that causes the loss of movement of the spine and hips, yet he says he’s “tried as hard as (he) can to not let it change (his) life” or impact his career.

As for the females, the Australian Open of Surfing defending champ Laura Enever, Gold Coast sisters Ellie Jean and Holly Sue Coffey, Felicity Palmateer and American Professional surfer and model Alana Blanchard will compete in the Aussie Bodies Women’s Pro.

Palmateer, who has twice finished in the top 10 on the Women’s WQS Tour, recently signed as an ambassador for sponsor Aussie Bodies. The West Australian 23 year-old made history in June of last year when she rode what is considered the largest waves ever by an Australian female after tackling the monster XXL swell at remote Cow Bombie near Margaret River, WA.

Felicity is also one of three females nominated for Female Performer of the Year at the annual Australian Surfing Awards that take place during the Australian Open of Surfing.

General information is available at: www.australianopenofsurfing.com  •  #ausopenofsurf

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Global Surf Sounds brings together travel, surfing and music around the world. A source for the worldwide surfing community to reach the far ends of the earth in the search for the perfect wave, sound and adventure.

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