The second edition of the SEAT Pro Netanya pres. by Reef got underway on the opening day of the event's waiting period. A fickle forecast for the rest of the week prompted organizers to run a full day's worth with the men and women's opening rounds on the cards.
The defending event champ' Pedro Henrique belted the day's highest combined heat total right off the bat to clearly state his intention of taking out another SEAT Pro Netanya title this week. His small-wave game was on point and he let nothing to chance, claiming an excellent 8.00 point ride to take the win.
"I'm super happy to be back here, it's such a special place," Henrique stated. "The waves were clean and fun this morning, the forecast seems to be getting even better so I'm stoked. I'm feeling great, I've surfed heaps all-winter in Portugal we got great waves."
Spain's Gony Zubizarreta looked in fine form as well, coming back for a second shot at the Israeli event this week. The dynamic Spaniard seemed perfectly unphased by the small surf on hand and took it upon himself to manufacture scores for a spot into the next round.
"The waves were really fun, really rippable," he said. "It's so much different from what we surf else where but there's a special energy about it, I think the same size at home would be terrible but here I had a lot of fun!"
A first-time visitor, Jose Ferreira discovered the potential of the Mediterranean for the first time today and looked comfortable in the somewhat different conditions to his usual Atlantic Portuguese coast. The Cascais native even tied with fellow Portuguese Guilherme Fonseca for the second-highest score of the day, an impressive 7.17 out of 10.
"It was good to brush the dust off my board, I had one nice wave and I felt really good out here," Ferreira said. "I'm really happy I came here and hoping to get a good result to start the year off right. This place is incredible I'm definitely going to encourage people to come visit. I came here two days ago and spent some time in Tel Aviv, it was amazing."
Gil Zilka, a local surf coach, won the popularity contest on Day 1, advancing through his first heat ahead of reigning European Champion Jonathan Gonzalez. The talented local who just welcomed his second child, looked stoked to get off family duties for a little bit and catch a surf.
"I've ran a surf school for the past six years so I've surfed this place a lot and some other spots around," Zilka commented. "When I saw on the heat draw that I was surfing against Jonathan I thought it's a great opportunity cause he's such a great surfer. I surfed good but I felt I wasn't on the best waves of the heat, probably just because I haven't surfed that much lately with the baby and I wanted to catch anything!"
Tessa Thyssen was the first surfer to take it to the water this morning as the day launched early with the women's first round. The Caribbean surfer, a former runner-up at the World Junior Championship, had to battle the (relatively) cold conditions coming from her tropical home, but adapted swiftly to take out the event's very first heat and advance into Round 2.
"Some sections were a little fat, it seems there are deeper spots in the sandbank and it makes it kind of tricky to surf at that size," she said. "I can't believe how beautiful this place is, I haven't had much time to look around and visit just yet but even right here, the water's really clear and I love it."
Surfers and event officials will reconvene at 7:45AM (local) Friday to reassess conditions and plan the second day of competition.