The opening day of competition at the Caparica Pro saw competitors from all ages take on the playful three-to-four foot surf at Praia do Paraiso.
The Caparica Pro is the QS division of a newly born festival bringing together men and women athletes in QS, Junior and Longboard divisions for a week-long surf extravaganza.
Against all odds, this event saw the return to competition of two former Championship Tour competitors, Tiago Pires and Micky Picon. Both long-time WSL competitors have since their retirement turned mentors for a new generation of surfers coming up the ranks within their historical sponsor's team.
"We have this development program at Quiksilver where we bring our best four athletes to events so my priority is to assess my team," Micky explained. "I thought the week was going to be a long one so I jumped on the opportunity to surf my first event in five years. I did three heats today and I'll sure need a little physio and stretching work tonight!"
As any good mentors would, Tiago and Micky made sure to lead by example and both advanced through their initial heats in the event. The rest of the week will sure become far more interesting when they face some of the event's top seeds but their presence in the early rounds was a great addition to an eventful opening day.
"Tiago is such a great ambassador for the sport of surfing in Portugal, and I think he's definitely going to try to win this event!" he continued. "He started working with Vasco (Ribeiro) on coaching and preparation for the QS and I think that's a great project for both of them."
Simultaneously, Day 1 saw another return to Caparica, that of former event champion Miguel Blanco, back in 2015 when it was a juniors-only competition. The Cascais local from San Pedro do Estoril, matured his surfing in the area and had no trouble adapting to the various faces of Caparica throughout the day.
"I have so much confidence competing here," he said. "I grew up super close and trained a lot in these waves. It definitely feels like home for me and winning here was sick, I hope it happens again."
For the past two years, Miguel has been touring the planet, surfing select events and free surfing locations most of us mere mortals only dream of: Hawaii, Tahiti and the likes.
"I actually arrived from Tahiti last night, this was my first surf back at home," he continued. "I spent three and a half months on the road between Hawaii, Australia, Indo and Tahiti so I was stoked to come home a little bit. It's the whole spirit of the crew at Rip Curl to travel and shoot perfect waves somewhere, so sick!"
And if that weren't enough, being part of a company whose motto is "The Search", the young Portuguese surfer gets to meet, and ride with some of the most talented athletes on the planet. Last year's wildcard at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, he even got to try to play spoiler in the title race of reigning WSL Champion John John Florence in Peniche.
"I met all the boys in Peniche last year and surfed with them, I went with them to France as well, it's definitely awesome to see them up close and push your surfing in their company. It's how I learn the most and the only way to really become good at this. Right now I want to do as many trips as I can to perfect my surfing but ultimately I want to give the QS a good shot and try to qualify."
Other notable performances include Pedro Henrique's opening Round Three win over Blanco. The former European champ' started with a third place in Israel in January but had a hard time defending his good start during the Australian leg. He will be looking to build a little momentum at home in Portugal.
"It's always nice to compete at home, and especially here where everyone gets to compete at the same time," he said. "I'm helping some of the juniors, coaching them a little bit and I'm having a great time surfing and working with them. I feel like I have a lot of experience and it's great to share a little bit of what I know."
The next call for competition will be at 7 a.m Tuesday for the Juniors, men and women, and the QS surfers both men and women will also get to surf on Day 2 later in the day.