PLAYA DE SOPELA, Bizcaya / Basque Country - An action-packed first day of competition at the Sopela Pro Junior unfolded in fun two-to-three foot (1 metre) waves at the iconic Basque venue. Facing a pessimistic forecast, contest officials decided to run concurrent heats at two breaks, which allowed a record-breaking 72 heats to be completed throughout the day.
While first-round seeded surfers had to sustain an endurance-testing four heats, they took full advantage of being fresh, and dominated the day's proceedings.
Tom Cloarec (FRA) 20 and Joao Kopke (PRT) 18, surfed back-to-back heats in which they each posted the day's highest total, 17.17 out of 20. Surfing the same peak in front of the main podium and largest crowds, Cloarec and Kopke dismantled the long lefts on offer to score twice in the excellent range.
â€œIt's pretty rare for me to be on point like that in my first heat,â€ Cloarec said. â€œI had two great waves at the start and managed to capitalize on both with good turns, I'm stoked to get an epic start.â€
Unfortunately, he later suffered a shock elimination in Round 4 at the hands of Germany's Arne Bergwinkl (DEU). Cloarec was not able to find decent scoring opportunities in their 20-minute bout.
Recent Portugal semifinalist Charly Quivront (FRA) 18, started the event in-form and focused on making his way to the final stages of the competition. His aggressive and dynamic backhand allowed the young surfer to score high and advance in the top spot.
â€œI honestly didn't expect waves this good, seeing how it was the previous days,â€ he said. â€œThere's an excellent left that starts a little mushy on the outside, you can carve your way in, then there's the hollow section excellent for a big finish.â€
Visibly happy with his performance, Quivront came in smiling, and already determined to keep his momentum going into the following rounds.
â€œThere's a good feeling here, everyone's smiling and ripping in the lineup. This day couldn't be better! It's only the opening rounds but I'm feeling confident after my good result in Portugal, so I hope I can win a few more heats.â€
In the women's event, local surfer Leticia Canales Bilbao (EUK), 19, took top honors claiming the event's highest scores in front of a supportive crowd.
â€œI'm stoked to take the win, but at the same time pretty disappointed with my performance,â€ she said. â€œIt's so important for me to do well here in front of everyone I know, I think I put a little too much pressure on myself and couldn't really enjoy the heat.â€
Last year's runner-up in the European Junior title race, Canales is currently sitting third on the regional rankings and clearly targeting the top spot. When competition resumes, the talented goofy-footer will need to focus and get comfortable surfing on home turf.
â€œI've trained so much over the past winter, I just want to show everyone what I'm capable of,â€ Canales continued. â€œI'll try to relax and enjoy myself more in the next heats and hopefully my performance shows.â€
Juliette Brice (FRA) 15, managed to overcome current rankings leader Tessa Thyssen (GLP)'s rhythm to take an important win. Still a very young competitor, Brice proved that she's one to look out for in future seasons.
â€œThe waves weren't particularly easy to surf, but they did improve since this morning,â€ she reflected. â€œI had a couple fun ones but it was a rather slow heat. In the first round I surfed alright but I knew I needed to do better to get through this one. The same goes for the next one. The level keeps improving the further we go into the event so I'll try to keep pushing.â€
UPCOMING SOPELA PRO JUNIOR MEN'S QUARTERFINAL MATCHUPS:
QF 1: Mateia Hiquily (PYF), Martin Coret (REU), Guilherme Fonseca (PRT), Gaspard Larsonneur (FRA)
QF 2: Mihimana Braye (PYF), Timothee Bisso (GLP), Miguel Blanco (PRT), Charly Quivront (FRA)
QF 3: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), Natxo Gonzalez (EUK), Arne Bergwinkl (DEU), Nelson Cloarec (FRA)
QF 4: Titouan Deffarges (FRA), Luke Dillon (GBR), Nelson Cloarec (FRA), Joao Kopke (PRT)
UPCOMING SOPELA PRO JUNIOR WOMEN'S ROUND OF 16 MATCHUPS:
Heat 1: Juliette Brice (FRA), Carol Henrique (PRT), Marion Bouzigues (FRA), Peony Knight (GBR) Heat 2: Lucia Martiño (ESP), Tessa Thyssen (GLP), Kim Veteau (GLP), Ariane Ochoa (EUK)
Heat 3: Leticia Canales Bilbao (EUK), Noa Iturripea (EUK), Carina Duarte (PRT), Yolanda Aneiros (ESP)
Heat 4: Keshia Seelow-Eyre (PRT), Lucy Campbell (GBR), Teresa Bonvalot (PRT), Ana Morau (FRA)