Gatien Delahaye (GLP) 18, and Leticia Canales Bilbao (EUK) 20, have won the 2015 Peña Txuri Junior Pro Sopela in clean two-to-three foot surf and before maxing crowds at the pristine main beach of Sopela.
In an interesting first exchange of the men's final, two different styles were opposed with Timothee Bisso (GLP)18, building a score on several frontside hacks while Delahaye went all-out on an aerial maneuver. The latter took a slight advantage and an early lead over his Guadeloupe compatriot.
Bisso wasted no time to react and quickly backed-up his first score to reverse the scenario and apply pressure on his opponent. Delahaye stayed unphased and kept his excellent momentum going, managing to get back into pole position.
A slow final gave fewer opportunities to both surfers and eventually it was Delahaye who came out on top, winning his first-ever WSL event. An emotional Delahaye was chaired up the beach by his Billabong teammates and couldn't contain his joy.
"Finally ! I've been waiting for this day for so long !" an ecstatic Delahaye stated. "All my work is finally paying off. The boys were supporting me on the beach and I'm stoked to have them behind, this win is theirs as well, Billabong's and my parents'. Tim was the form surfer of the event and I knew it was going to be tough. Thankfully I got my two scores early on and there weren't a lot of waves in the final."
Jumping from 13th to 5th on the regional rankings post Sopela, Delahaye is steadily building to reach his overall goal for 2015 of finishing within the qualifying group of surfers for the World Junior final.
"I'm going to just keep working hard to keep that rhythm going and hopefully make a couple more finals," Delahaye added. "Tim and I have been surfing together and against each other for ever, it's really cool to have a 100% Guadeloupean final and I'm super happy I even got to win it !"
Widely considered the most in-form surfer this week in Sopela, Bisso couldn't really work his magic in the final and placed runner-up, his best result so far this year.
"That second place definitely tastes bitter-sweet," Bisso admitted. "But I did a good job overall and I'm super happy with my surfing this week. Like I said before, I wanted this event to be a turn-around in my poor season so far and I think I've really got the ball rolling. I have to admit I really didn't have much juice left in the final, I think my first wave could have been an 8 but I only managed to scrap a 4 something, so that made a difference."
In the women's final, Canales started early on a beautiful left on her forehand and applied the same powerful turns she has been scoring on all week, to net an excellent 8.00 point ride and take a solid lead in the final.
Juliette Brice (FRA) 16, had a hard time finding her rhythm and couldn't collect an above-average score, leaving her opponent building her scoreboard without competition. Both surfers opted to surf on their forehand and sat apart for most of the final.
Despite a valiant last-minute effort, Brice couldn't find the required high score to reverse the situation and Canales took the win. Runner-up in 2014, the young Basque finally got her major win on home turf.
"This win is very special for me," Canales said. "To win at home with all my family and friends around is really awesome. I came very close last year and losing the final really broke my heart, so today is extra nice for sure."
With her win in Sopela and the related 1,000 ranking points, Canales takes a huge leap up on the regional ladder to sit in fourth position before the final two events of 2015, well within striking distance of both the European title and qualification for the World Juniors.
"I wasn't really confident going into my first event this year in Portugal," Canales continued. "I wasn't satisfied with my boards and I could feel I wasn't surfing like I should. This time I was completely pressure-free and feeling great, that board worked her magic and I was able to take the win !"
Runner-up in Sopela, 16 year-old Brice showed great potential for her young age and will soon be a force to be reckoned with. Now in 5th position on Europe's Junior rankings, Brice will try to confirm her excellent form on home grounds when the tour moves to Lacanau.
"My goal was to make a final this year so I'm satisfied, even though winning it would have been a huge plus," Brice said. "Lacanau is my hometown and I'm really looking forward to the event, hopefully I can perform as well. I think this result will give me confidence and surfing at home will put some pressure on myself; I'll just have to find the right balance and make the best of it."
The European Junior Qualifying Series will now move on to the Lacanau Pro Juniors from August 14-17 for Stop No.4 of 5 in the 2015 season.