The first-ever Santa Cruz Pro launched today in two-to-three-foot surf and completed the opening eight heats of Round One. Event officials capitalized on the clean morning conditions with an early call to exploit the outgoing tide.
Andy Criere secured the day's strongest performance and was the only surfer to crack the excellent range (8.00 or above) in the small to medium surf. The young talented goofyfooter looked poised and confident, trying to build on a string of average results in the recent events.
"When we first got here this morning the peak was really nice and clean with a bit more water, but when the sun came up unfortunately the north wind started blowing in," Criere said. "But there's still plenty of fun little rights and lefts. I managed to find two first scores on the rights and improved with a good set lefthander and two turns in the critical section. That was definitely my best wave."
Brazilian-born Portugal resident Jhon Junior upset event top seed Miguel Blanco and took top honors in his opening round matchup, advancing in first position ahead of recent Peña Txuri Junior Pro Sopela winner Titouan Boyer.
"This is my first event this year and I'm super happy to make it through as conditions were really tough I found," Junior stated. "This past week I haven't surfed and I only just had a little free surf before the event started so I didn't feel exactly ready but it's good to get the first heat out of the way and come out with the win."
Current European No. 12 Tom Cloarec rounded out the day's action in Heat 8, making his way into Round Two alongside Porto surfer Salvador Couto. Cloarec had previously witnessed his younger brother Nelson win his own matchup and look fired up to keep the family campaign alive in Santa Cruz.
"It started to get tricky in my brother's heat prior to mine, and kept degrading, but I did what I could and fortunately I found two average scores that were enough to take the win," he said. "I never felt safe because it was a low-scoring affair. I noticed the little rights breaking south of the peak so I tried to find a couple and it worked out. Now we'll probably look around to find a little wave on the high tide and stay excited for the rest of the week."
Event organizers will reconvene Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. and have invited both men and women athletes for a potential start.