The 2016 Peña Txuri Junior Pro Sopela resumed today in clean, one-to-two foot surf this morning under the strong Basque summer sun.
The women's event launched, starring the current top two surfers Teresa Bonvalot (PRT), 16, and Ariane Ochoa (EUK), 18, in fine form and as always thrusting the leaderboard of high single scores and heat totals.
A late-entry into this event meant Basque Ochoa had to start from the opening round 1 where she claimed a near-perfect 9 point ride for a strong display of the sharp surfing that recently won her the QS1,000 Pro A Coruña Surf Fest. Ochoa struggled to find waves in her second bout but managed to advance nonetheless.
"I was here early to free surf before the heat and it was really complicated, fortunately when the heat started I got two fun little waves," she explained. "It's hard for everyone in these conditions and I can't predict the future but it should be an interesting event for the title race."
Number one seed Bonvalot got off to a good start as well and surfed with confidence despite the very small conditions on offer. The Portuguese, once she had banked two good scores, even took her act to the next level and launched into a clean reverse air to conclude a small wave and came extremely close to become one of the first junior female surfer to land such a radical maneuver.
"I got those two waves and had a good situation so when I saw that little section I went for a different turn," she commented. "I'm happy to be here and was enjoying myself out there. I don't train specifically to try airs but I love to mix different turns and improve my surfing."
The men's event resumed in the afternoon's bumpier surf with a strong side shore wind coming to the party and rendering conditions harder, though providing good little ramps for the aerialists.
Perfectly unknown on the European tour before he entered the Junior Pro Espinho a few weeks ago, French Polynesian Kauli Vaast, 14, made a name for himself with slick power carves on his forehand and big aerial maneuvers in Portugal. The young goofy footer continued to impress in Sopela and made his way into the fifth round of competition.
"My team at Quiksilver told me it'd be cool to come try the Juniors events here, so I came over from Tahiti and did two events this year," he stated. "I think I'll do the full tour next year, I really want to improve. I made the quarters in Portugal so that was good, hopefully I can do at least the same and even better here. I keep airs for the situation when I really need something big and I'm in trouble, I'll see if the opportunity presents itself here later. The level is really high so that's great to see good surfers and try to beat them."
Fellow Quik team rider Lens Arancibia Avila (FRA), 18, dominated a stacked first heat of Round 4 and looked sharp and decided to impose his powerful and stylish brand of surfing. Expected higher in the rankings in his final year among the U-18 crowd, the French Basque surfer seems to have finally found his rhythm and is hungry for a big result in his final two Junior events this season.
"The strong wind really flattens the wave, I chose to stick to the rights it felt like they were a little cleaner and allowing more vertical turns," he stated. "I've had a complicated season so far, I've lost with some good scores and felt a little unlucky. Somehow I got better results on the QS, maybe I've been more motivated when the level was higher. I'm feeling really good in this event and am decided to finish strong, so I look forward to Sunday and hopefully some fun waves !"
An event winner this year in Biscarrosse, current European N°3 Titouan Boyer (MAF), 18, was one of the day's strongest surfer, totaling an impressive 16.17 in the afternoon blown-out surf. The natural footer exploited the long lefts from the outside bank all the way in and belted a 9 point ride in the dying seconds of his heat to seal the deal on a Round 5 berth.
"I think I put too much pressure on myself after the win in Bisca and didn't surf loose enough, now I'm starting to have fun again and it shows," he analyzed. "I had two fun heats today even though conditions weren't ideal, but I really had fun and I've missed that lately. I'm taking things slow and no need to get all excited about it, I'll see what Sunday brings and will take each heat at a time."
Forecast for Day 3 of the event Saturday looks like minimal swell on offer and event officials have decided to allow surfers to rest a little bit with an 11:30AM call for both men and women.