The 2016 Peña Txuri Junior Pro Sopela, stop N°5 on this season's European Junior Qualifying Series, got underway today in bumpy two-to-three foot surf. A marathon day of 40 heats ran, to whittle down the field greatly on the opening day of the waiting period. Event officials capitalized on what is expected to be the biggest day of the week to complete the busy earlier rounds of the men's event. The women, meanwhile, had a day to free surf in anticipation of a probable start Friday.
Kalani Da Silva (CNY), 18, scored the day's highest single scores and combined heat total, including an impressive 8.67 out of a possible 10. The young Canarian took full advantage of the clean high-tide peaks to display his power and smooth transitions, then managed to continue his good run through the low-tide trickier peaks to advance into the fourth round.
"My first heat had great waves and I surfed well, it was great to get those big scores I'm not exactly used to," Da Silva said. "The last two had terrible conditions and it was much harder but I made it through so I'm happy. I've had two quarters lately and I want to do better, I want to win one event! I've tried surfing the QS in A Coruña cause it's my last year as a Junior but it was really hard so I need to keep improving. This is my second home -- I've spent the last two summers here so I know the waves well and I hope I can do really good."
A young newcomer only in his first full-season among the European U-18 athletes, Gaizka Housset Ezponda (FRA), 16, managed to belt one of the strongest waves of the opening rounds with a succession of good turns on a long wave surfed from the outside in.
"I got a little lucky with my very first wave, there weren't a lot of them past the first five minutes so it was great to start with a big score," he admitted. "It started as a right, so on my backhand I did a good little turn, then the wave reformed going left and I managed to squeeze a couple more turns. Last year I lost in the first round here, it was my very first event, but now I'm on tour the whole year so I hope I can build on my results."
Basque new-generation surfer Adur Amatriain, 12, collected one of the very few excellent scores so far, for a long ride and a combination of powerful little hacks in the critical sections of the wave. Hailing from the proving grounds of Zarautz and part of a great surfing family, Amatriain secured his first-ever Junior heat win in the best of fashions, ahead of regional rankings leader Thomas Debierre (GLP).
Another Zarautz local, current European Junior N°5 Lander Davila (EUK), 18, who burst onto the scene with an event win earlier this season, had a hard time backing up his best result and escaped a tricky Round Two bout today, keeping his Sopela campaign alive.
"I got that fun wave to start with, and the rest of the heat was super slow. I couldn't really find anything else," he reflected. "I didn't really stress though, because I was sure I would have another opportunity, in the end I'm lucky that one big score was enough to make it through. It's good to be close to home, I get to go home every night. Waves are very different but I like it here, so I look forward to more of this tomorrow."
British power-surfer Angus Scotney (GBR), 18, entered in the top seeds third round and easily dispatched of his competition to make his way into day 2 of the event with a solid 14.33 heat total. Scotney, surfing his last season amongst the junior crowd will be looking to advance through more rounds when competition resumes to improve on his current 23rd spot in the region's rankings.
"I've been waiting and watching my friends surf since early morning, avoiding the sun too so it's been a long day," he said. "Waves were hard but there were a few fun ones. I've seen conditions change all day long and I had no idea where the peak was going to be when I paddled out. I started well in Caparica and struggled with luck in the next three events, so it's nice to finally surf well and get a couple good scores."
Event officials have announced a 7:45 a.m. call Friday for the women, while the men can sleep in and join the fun at 12 p.m. for a potential re-start in the afternoon.