Remember the firing conditions of finals day last year? Well, today the Pro Zarautz looked a whole lot different with a proper blown-out wind swell on tap at the central beach.
The European leg of spring Qualifying Series events that started last week in Portugal has suffered tough love from the elements. But that hasn't stopped anyone from going out there and ripping whatever waves were on offer.
Here's a quick look into a few profiles that worked well today:
The (Still) Energetic, Young QS Grinder
Charly Quivront has only been roaming the world on the QS since last season, as he previously concentrated his efforts on the European Junior Tour and a few QS events in the region. The result is a super hungry young surfer, who's still improving a lot at each event and quickly builds his global ranking to make the coveted Top 100 and enter the biggest events of the season.
Today Charly put together two solid heats and nailed some of the biggest scores of the event so far, including a 9.17 to advance into Round Three. Only time will tell if the surfer from the middle of the French coast can keep his momentum, but so far he looked deadly and set for a potential first big result on the Qualifying Series.
"I think I got really lucky to find some very decent waves out there," he said. "What I love is surfing on the rail. And despite the blown-out waves today I managed to spot a few sections to do just that so I'm really happy with how it went. It's a question of having the right rhythm and being selective out there."
The Big Wave Chaser: Out to Stay Fit
By now, you've likely heard of Natxo Gonzalez. If not for his Pro Junior years, then you've seen him ride a giant Puerto Escondido or Mullaghmore wall, or dodge a sketchy section at Punta Galea when the event was on the Big Wave Tour.
He's not exactly the committed-to-qualification type, but originally from the Basque Country, Natxo's keen to keep surfing the European QS events as a way to keep his fitness levels up. Now when winter arrives on the Old Continent and the QS caravan moves toward warmer locales, that's when he'll bloom and put the 5'10 back in the garage for something much, much larger.
"I haven't competed for a while so I was very relaxed and happy to get back into it," he reflected. "I'm training and working hard to try to qualify for the Big Wave Tour, but in summer I'm still going to do the European QS events 'cause it's a great way to stay in shape and keep surfing. I'm living my dream, working on so many great projects and surfing crazy waves."
The Juniors: Nothing to Lose
A few new faces showed up on our radar in Zarautz, those of international junior surfers who hadn't competed in the region before.
Ventura's Eithan Osborne is one of them. With family in France and Morocco, Eithan decided to mix pleasure and business and traveled to France after last week's stint in Barbados, in driving distance from Zarautz.
Today he surfed a good heat to advance into Round Three as well, ahead of much more experienced regional surfers. The next round is where things get serious though with the event's top seeds joining the fun, and we look forward to seeing how Eithan handles the pressure.
"My grandpa lives in France, so I flew there to hang out with him and drove here for the event," he explained. "Waves were tricky out there but still fun, they're pretty similar to some of the stuff I surf at home so after a couple free surfs I was fine. I'm only just starting on the QS so I want to make a couple heats and continue to improve."
Meanwhile, that Mateus Herdy has already surfed 11 events so far this season, shows how eager the Brazilian is to test himself against some of the top QS athletes. He placed 5th at the Telstra Stores Tweed Coast Pro, 13th in Barbados last week, and judging by his Heat 1 antics, could very well go even higher here this week. The single highest wave score of the event so far, an incredible 9.37, is his.
Marco Mignot doesn't really count as a fresh face, he's surfed and won events in Europe before, but he definitely deserves a shout out from Day 1. The youngest of the Mignot clan belted one of the biggest performances of the day with two excellent 8-point-plus rides for his own spot into the next round.
With a similar forecast for Day 2 of competition, organizers will check out conditions at 9 a.m Thursday for a potential start of the women's event, while the men are called at 10:30 a.m.
Find out all the results, photos, video highlights and daily recaps right here.