The 2017 Junior Pro Espinho culminated today with the finals surfed in excellent, two-to-three foot surf at the iconic praia de Baia in Northern Portugal. Surfers put on an incredible show in the rippable surf and kept everyone on the beach entertained all day.
The Steady Rise of Marco Mignot
The youngest in the Mignot clan (that is, of those who are currently competing -- watch out for another Mignot in the coming years!), Marco keeps improving and claimed a second Pro Junior win today in Portugal. He started his season with a fourth place, came runner-up in Biscarrosse and now takes top honors in Espinho, taking the European rankings lead in the process.
In the Final, Marco had an absolute dream run. He first surfed two good waves relatively safely, building a strong lead with two 7-plus scores, and then went ballistic in the air, landed two big rotations for a 9.07 and a 9.10 to kill anyone else's hopes of winning that heat.
"I'm super stoked with the win, and I want to thank my dad and Matthias, my coach, for all their help. I couldn't have done it without them," he said. "Once I had those first two waves I really wanted to let loose and have fun, I'm super happy I made the airs. I felt like a grom again and that felt great. Kauli [Vaast] and I have a good battle for first place and we're great friends so that really pushes us to be the best we can."
France Dominates the Men's Junior Field
The Final was an all-French affair and behind Marco Leo Paul Etienne, Tiago Carrique and Erwan Blouin fought hard for runner-up. Eventually it was Erwan, the 17 year-old from Gironde, who claimed the second position with a good performance on the long lefts of Espinho.
"It feels good to make a Final!," Erwan said. "I knew it'd be hard to compete with Marco because the right was better and on my backhand there's no way I could have done that well. So I stayed on the lefts and tried my best. There's one more comp in Sopela so I'll try to win that one!"
Teresa's Unbeatable Run Continues
Teresa Bonvalot has won pretty much everything there is on the Junior tour by now, at least in Europe. Today she added yet another event title to her impressive track record, the second consecutive win in Espinho, as well as her second European Junior Champion title.
She surfed a very smart Final, only opting to surf two waves, but doing the job on both occasions to secure a 13.56 combined heat total. Now with her spot secured, the talented goofyfooter has only one goal in mind: to claim the World Junior Champion title in Kiama, Australia next year, and she has what it takes.
"It's really great to win here again in Espinho, obviously winning in Portugal is even more special for me," Teresa said. "I had a lot of fun today, the waves were so much better and even though the final was a little slow I managed to find two good waves and it was enough. I'm excited to look ahead at Kiama, the World Junior Championships now and I'll do my best there to try to win the title!"
The Rise of a New British Generation
A few new faces from the U.K gave an excellent preview of what the generation has in store, and best of all was Ellie Turner in the women's, who claimed the runner-up spot today. It's Ellie's second consecutive runner-up finish, and she is due an event win very soon.
The Bude, Cornwall, resident showed great surfing all event and just basically missed opportunities in the Final to display her talent on the set waves. She is looking like one of the strongest athletes to take over when Bonvalot graduates to the Qualifying Series full time next season.
"I'm really happy with my second place today," Turner said. "I never really got any big waves in the Final, which was a little frustrating, but I feel like I surfed well on the small ones that I got. Wave selection is definitely something I need to work on. I hope I can stay in the Top 2 and qualify too that would be amazing, but if not I know I have a few more years."
The best Portuguese surfer in this event, Afonso Antunes, fifth overall, also won the Lenovo Expression Session last night and walked away with a fresh new computer offered by the event sponsor.
Following the completion of the Junior Pro Espinho, the European Top 5 stands as follows. For full rankings, visit this page.
MEN'S EUROPEAN JUNIOR QS TOP 5:
1 - Marco Mignot (FRA)
2 - Kauli Vaast (PYF)
3 - Theo Julitte (FRA)
4 - Ruben Vitoria (EUK)
4 - Leo Paul Etienne (FRA)
WOMEN'S EUROPEAN JUNIOR QS TOP 5:
1 - Teresa Bonvalot (PRT) ** European Champion
2 - Ellie Turner (GBR)
3 - Juliette Lacome (FRA)
4 - Maelys Jouault (FRA)
5 - Mafalda Lopes (PRT)
With three events now completed, surfers will have a final opportunity at the upcoming Junior Pro Sopela from July 19-23 in the Basque Country.
Check out all the photos, videos and updates right here.