The Caraïbos Lacanau Pro struggled to really get underway with only a short Day 1 in mediocre waves and a lay day on Wednesday. To most onlookers, this morning looked like a disappointing repetition with small waves barely breaking at dawn.
Somehow though, Aboubakar Bouaouda made it look quite fun, as the 17-year-old Moroccan put on a dynamic display and racked up a decent total to advance into Round Three.
"Waves were small but I was focused and really motivated and thankfully I made it," he said. "I'm pretty used to surf conditions exactly like this in Morocco so I was very comfortable out there. I've also been here a few days before the event to warm up. I [focused on] single maneuvers on a decent wave rather than multiple average turns and I think that was the right choice."
The event went on hold around the high-tide mark and when we came back the scene had completely changed. The new, expected swell finally showed signs of life and by the time Round Two got back underway, clean, two-to-three foot lefts were breaking on the perfectly shaped sandbank.
Jihad Khodr was first to capitalize, he was just in the right place at the right time and started lighting up the walls on his backhand.
"I'm so glad to be back here in Lacanau, I haven't competed in a while but apparently I've still got it," he said with a smile. "That bank is so good and everybody's ripping, I hope I can keep up in the next few rounds. I was patient to get the right waves and I tried to surf the way I like to."
Next up was a more familiar face on the European tour, Leo Paul Etienne, who followed right in Jihad's path and took it one step further. Leo Paul, who's just won the last regional junior event in the Basque Country -- and his ticket for the World Junior final in Kiama -- smartly introduced a little variation in each of his turns to post an impressive 14.94 win.
"I started a little slower than the other guys, but I was lucky because paddling back out from my first wave I caught that great insider and scored my 8 on it," he said. "I recently went to California for the US Open Junior and that was really fun! I didn't do as well as I'd hoped but I had great time there, and it was really good to see such a massive event from up close. I'm excited to start the QS full time, I know it's going to be super hard because the level is so high, but I can't wait to give it a go."
As conditions continued to improve, the women's Round Two launched and the surfers couldn't believe how good the surf got since the morning.
Ella Williams wasted no time to find her winning form again. She just won the Boardmasters in Cornwall last weekend and is the defending champ in Lacanau, so it's safe to assume nobody really wants to face her in the next few rounds, especially if the waves pump.
"I probably got a little too excited out there but I just saw so many waves and it was great," she said. "It's so different when you get out in the water from what it looks like from the site, so I just wanted to try my rhythm, but I will have to clean that up for the next few days. It's great to have more girls coming here and the level has picked up so much again this year, it will challenge us all to surf better!"
And the day just kept getting better, with an absolute fireworks show from San Clemente's Tia Blanco in the very next heat. Tia comboed the entire field -- men and women included -- with incredible surfing on her forehand and backhand to post a 16.76 heat total.
"Conditions improved so much throughout the day and I was stoked to be in that last heat," she said. "I've been here for a few days and having a great time, just taking it easy. People have been super friendly and the food's great so I'm loving Lacanau so far."
Unfortunately organizers had to call competition off at the end of Tia's heat, Heat 5, as judges were literally blinded by the glare as the day wound down.
Competition could resume early with a 7:30 a.m call Friday to finish the three women's heats remaining in Round Two before moving on to the men's event.
Check out all photos, videos, updates and tune in to the live webcast when the event resumes right here.