Surfer off to Europe to take on the world’s best
SURFING: Travelling to Europe to face the world's best opponents is a daunting task for any 16-year-old, but Laura Poncini has three of her best mates to make the challenge easier.
The Moffat Beach phenomenon will become the latest Sunshine Coast surfer to take on the world's best, following Dimity Stoyle, Keely Andrew and Isabella Nichols, who have just finished competing in California.
"The talent coming out of the Sunshine Coast right now is so good and it's because all these girls are pushing each other's surfing and taking it to new heights," she said.
"We're all really close and we all support each other but we push each other to do better."
Poncini is ranked 59th on the World Qualification Series (WQS), the highest for her age, and Nichols is 77th, while Andrew is 11th and a serious contender for next year's World Championship Tour (WCT).
Poncini said the recent success of WCT Stoyle, 22, has inspired a new generation of Coast surfers to lift their game and push for selection on the world's elite surfing tour.
The Buderim rookie has been a revelation in her first season at the top, beating two-time world champion Carissa Moore twice and leading the rookie-of-the-year campaign.
"I used to train with Dimity when I was little and we're all Sunny Coast born and bred and it's just great to see how well Dimity has done," Poncini said.
"She's a really big inspiration and she's such a cool girl."
Poncini will also catch up with Andrew, who boosted her chances of qualifying for next year's tour when she reached the quarter-finals of this week's six-star stop in California.
Each year the WCT takes the top 10 surfers from the previous campaign and the top six from the WQS.
Andrew likely needs at least a quarter-final and semi-final in the final two six-star stops - Swatch Girls Pro France and Pantin Classic Galicia Pro in Spain - to make the cut.
She is confident she can achieve that after an impressive performance in California that included a round five heat win over Stoyle.
"I'm extremely confident. I did all the training and hard work at home and now it's just about putting it into action," Andrew said.
Nichols, 16, was also in California and made it to round three of the Supergirl Pro.
Both Nichols and Poncini are both using this month's European tour to boost their rankings for next year and build confidence so they can make a serious push at the WQS next year.