Pro A Coruna

Junior Ranks Shaken Up as Semifinalists Emerge in A Coruña

Highlights Day 3
Surfers compose with technical small surf to decided semifinalists of Junior events.

The Pro A Coruña Surf Fest resumed today in minimal surf at the backup venue of Playa de Caion. Competition started early and was interrupted multiple times by a heavy fog before continuing in the afternoon high tide and clearer skies.

It was a day of major upsets in the men's junior qualifying race as almost all Top10 athletes were eliminated in the two rounds of competition surfed throughout the day. Out of the few survivors of this A Coruña plague, Marco Mignot (FRA), 15, and Leo Paul Etienne (GLP), 17, stand to gain the most, currently sitting at 5th and 6ft respectively on the regional ladder.

Justin Becret (FRA) Pro A Coruna  Junior men 2016 Becret lays it all in one turn for a big score. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

The two light surfers made the most of the small, inconsistent surf today at Caion, and will look to go all the way when competition resumes in an effort to climb as far up as possible before the fifth stop in the series, next week in the Basque Country.

"It's been a long and eventful, stressing day, especially when I saw my best friend lose in the heat before mine," Etienne commented. "I got a great wave right away and that changed everything though, I felt instantaneously better. Thomas (Debierre) is my best friend on land since we were kids, but that's true that when you're in the lineup it sort of disappears and we compete for the same win."

Leo Paul Etienne (GLP) Pro A Coruna  Junior men 2016 Etienne goes vertical in knee-high surf. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

"I used to have a lack of confidence problem but here I've gotten great scores in most heats and I feel great and pretty confident so I'm thinking this could be my turn to win an event," he added. "Small waves could come to my advantage as well, I'm a little lighter and I feel I can generate more speed than bigger guys in these conditions."

The women's field served a completely different scenario with most top seeds making their way into the Semifinals of the event. Current rankings leader Teresa Bonvalot (PRT), 16, led the charge with her signature backhand, light surfing on the small lefts and rights on offer.

Teresa Bonvalot (PRT) Pro A Coruna  Junior Women 2016 Bonvalot managed to get up and over the lip. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

"The fog definitely played with our nerves, stopping a few heats right in the middle, mine was put on hold when we were out in the lineup, but we couldn't even see the judges' tower," she reflected. "After a long wait I finally hit the water, it was tough conditions but I managed to get through and that's all that matters. I've had ups and downs this year with a little ankle injury that bothered me, but I feel much better now and winning events definitely helps with confidence going into the rest of the season. I'm simply extremely thankful for this life we have of just surfing all the time and having fun!"

Today also marked the return to form of reigning European Junior Champion Juliette Brice (FRA), 17, who had a difficult start to her 2016 campaign and is sitting outside the current Top 10. The young Lacanau surfer managed to power her way through the tricky, low-tide bouts to advance into the Semis and keep her Galician campaign alive.

Juliette Brice (FRA) Pro A Coruna  Junior Women 2016 Brice gets light on her feet for a spot in the semis. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

"Those are not ideal conditions for me, I'm definitely more comfortable in the bigger surf but I managed to get through so I'm happy," she said. "This season is a disaster for me so far, I completely failed at the first event, missed the second one because I was surfing the Gromsearch final in Hawaii. So I got to Espinho feeling a lot of pressure and that didn't help!"

"I think I'm so far out of contention it's actually going to be liberating," she continued. "You never know, things could start going my way. The most important thing for me is just to show I can surf; it's really frustrating when waves don't allow you to. The other girls are stronger, Teresa, Ariane, they've shown they can compete in these difficult conditions and make the finals every time so I'll try my best now."

Friday will see longboarders come to play with an 8:30 a.m. call while the Junior events could potentially be completed in the afternoon with a 3 p.m. call. Men and women in the QS categories will have another day off to explore the surroundings of beautiful A Coruña.

Ariane Ochoa (EUK) Pro A Coruna  Junior Women 2016 Ochoa demonstrates she can compose with tiny waves and still come out swinging. - WSL / Damien Poullenot