MEREWETHER schoolgirl Sarah Phelan has taken out top spot at the Port Stephens Toyota trials to win a place in the round of 48 at Surfest.
The 16-year-old is likely to line up against her idol and reigning world champion Stephanie Gilmore in the first round of the Hunter Ports Women's Classic at Merewether Beach later this month.
Last year's world No. 2 Sally Fitzgibbons will also return to defend her 2012 Surfest crown.
Phelan said she was excited to go up against a world-class line-up at her home beach.
Phelan grew up in Merewether and is a former Merewether Surf Life Saving Club junior.
"I've been watching Stephanie on the ASP World Tour for the past two years," she said.
"So hopefully I get to meet her in person."
Phelan said her main aims at Surfest were to get more competition experience under her belt and hopefully attract sponsors.
She plans to pick up more dry land training this year and work on her core strength and stability.
Phelan, a year 11 student at St Francis Xavier's College, Hamilton, will also compete in the Newcastle Now High School Team Challenge with schoolmates Ruby Bortolos and Samantha Miller.
Phelan was also selected as one of 16 young locals to participate in the Hunter Water Stars of the Future development program to be held throughout Surfest.
■ Surfest's Hunter Ports Women's Classic, will be held at Merewether Beach, from February 18 to 24.