FLYING HIGH: Chris Zaffis in the quarter-finals at the 2019 Carve Pro.
FLYING HIGH: Chris Zaffis in the quarter-finals at the 2019 Carve Pro. Ethan Smith

Zaffis chases pipe dream after carving it up

SURFING: Chris Zaffis has opened the World Surf League qualifying series with his best performance in home waters.

Zaffis excelled at the Carve Pro QS1000 event at Maroubra, winning four straight heats on his way to a semi-final finish.

Fighting gruelling conditions and small swell, Zaffis worked the waves with a series of carves and cut-backs before getting to unleash an aerial assault in the finals.

The quarter-final was a chance to exact revenge against former world tour surfer Mitch Crews, who beat Zaffis twice in the same round in last year's qualifying series.

"He is a really good surfer, so for sure it felt good to get one over him, but so is everyone at that level,” Zaffis said.

"I just try to relax these days and take each heat as it comes.”

Zaffis came within a whisker of getting up over Central Coast surfer and junior tour champion Caleb Tancred in their semi-final.

But a two-wave total of 13.93 was not enough to beat Tancred, whose impressive total of 15.17 included a single wave score of 8.50.

"It was my best finish in Australia and I'm super-stoked to open my year like that,” Zaffis said.

"In the past I've really struggled in smaller, weaker waves, so I've worked on that a lot and it feels amazing to see my work paying off.”

After finishing his electrician apprenticeship at the end of last year, Zaffis spent his off-season dividing his team between rooftops and wave crests.

The extra work in the small surf at Angourie and Yamba set the 21-year-old surfer on the perfect course for the Carve Pro.

"I felt good coming into the event,” Zaffis said.

"I did work a lot over the holidays but also got a lot of surfing done and my body is feeling really good at the moment, injury-free.

"I have just finished my apprenticeship and I feel a huge weight off my shoulders now so I can just relax in the surf.

"Definitely wasn't expecting much in the first event - it's hard to tell where you're at, especially being in a small town with no one to gauge off, but I would love to keep the momentum going.”

That momentum has taken him halfway around the world, with the Angourie surfer touching down in Hawaii this week for the Volcom Pipe Pro in Oahu - a dream come true for Zaffis.

"I am super-psyched to compete in Hawaii,” he said. "I used to come to Hawaii every season when I was younger and it's always been a dream to compete at Pipe.”

The QS3000 event will also be the best chance for Zaffis to earn points on the tour as he aims to break into the top 100 qualifiers in the world for the first time.

The Volcom Pipe Pro began in Hawaii overnight.