After several days of competition at Merewether beach, New South Wales, Australian Jay Thompson is the Maitland Toyota Open champion for 2007.

The relatively unknown 24 year-old surfer from Burleigh Heads pocketed a cheque for $US10,000 and grabbed 1500 valuable World Qualifying Series (WQS) ratings points after his maiden win in a professional surfing event.

Thompson (pictured below), who came third in the world U/18 Grommet titles in 2001, finished the tour last year ranked 35th in the WQS ratings. His previous best result in the pro ranks was 5th in a Super Series event in France in 2005. The win at Merewether sees the former Australian U/16 title holder go to the 4 star Central Coast Pro at 71st position in the WQS rankings.

In the final, Thompson (15.17 points) defeated the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour surfer Phillip MacDonald (12.67) of Cronulla in Sydney, who finished 12th on the elite tour in 2006. His highest individual wave score in the final was an 8.17 to MacDonald's 7. 'Bottle' as he is known to his mates around the world, started his campaign at Merewether in the round of 64.

This was the first WQS event Thompson has surfed in 2007after making the decision to skip the surfing season's opening leg of WQS events in Brazil. "I wasn't mentally prepared to start at the beginning of the year. I've been working really hard on my fitness and doing heaps of training and I just felt the time was right to surf here at Merewether.

"We do so much travelling, I just wanted to get everything right before starting out on my one goal this year of qualifying for the main tour," he said. Thompson rang his parents immediately after leaving the water, but they weren't home. "I'm dying to tell them and they will be over the moon I reckon," he said.

The natural foot has a tattoo on his left torso dedicated to the memory of his older brother Vaughn. His sibling died in a tragic accident on the Gold Coast in 2005. Thompson said the only thing that could have made the win sweeter was if Vaughn was here with him. "I really miss him and I know he'd be happy for me to get this win today," Thompson said.

"I'd dedicate the win to him but I already dedicated the win I had at the single fin classic at Burleigh in January, so I can't really do it here as well. "But I'm thinking about him."

Runner up Phillip MacDonald said he was disappointed he could not continue the form which saw him win all previous five heats since he began the competition in the round of 64. "I really wanted to win, I've been surfing well all competition but I just didn't get the waves," a deflated MacDonald said.

Twenty-eight year-old MacDonald, who finished 12th on the elite tour in 2006, said he was pleased Thompson would have his name etched on the winner's trophy. "This is good for Bottle. He needs the points and I don't, so good on him," he added.

Many of the competitors at Merewether will now drive a hour south to Soldiers Beach on the New South Wales' Central Coast, for the round of 256 in the 4 star WQS event.

The day's Events including the Toohey’s Extra Dry Expression Session, the Coca-Cola Teams Challenge, the Newcastle Permanant Teams challenge, the Hunter Water Stars of the Future and the Wine and Waves Festival kept a crowd of more than 5000 fully entertained in between heats of the Maitland Toyota Open.

In the invitation only Toohey’s Extra Dry Expression Session, Merewether lad Travis Lynch gave the crowd a show to remember, taking the winner’s cheque of $1000 in spectacular style. A favourite at Surfest, Lynch won the approval of spectators in this afternoon’s “show-off" event, busting some serious air maneuvers and launching himself towards the sky in 3-4ft swell.

“It’s all judged on one move and mine was a forehand air, so that’s what got me the win," an elated Lynch said. “It’s so much different to competing in the Maitland Toyota Open because you’re just out there to have fun with your mates and put on a show for the crowd. “I had a ball and it’s always great to have surf on the last day of Surfest."

Also competing in the show stopping event were Michael Spencer (Lake Munmorah, NSW), Jordy Smith (AUS), Drew McPherson (Nords Wharf, NSW), Luke Cheadle (AUS) and crowd favourite Wiggolly Dantas (BRA).

But the ultimate culmination of the action was this afternoon’s Maitland Toyota Open, won by 24 year-old Australian Jay Thompson. While the move to Merewether was regarded by many as a big gamble, the ulimate day of the event proved the gamble was a goer. Merewether rocked. We had some outstanding world class waves, some hot weather and appreciative crowds.

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