A regular stop on the European Junior tour for the past four years, Espinho has been moody this year. After delivering macking storm surf for the longboard event, the beach put on a happy face for the Junior Pro Espinho offering up clean, offshore, head-high surf on opening day.
Contest officials, giddy at the sight of good surf, powered through the first round of the men's and women's and then scratched the surface of men's Round 2.
In the morning the dropping high tide was rife with scoring opportunities. Set waves peaked up on the outer bank, pitched out and went flat for a spell before reforming into a fast inside section.
Most of the scoring happened on the outside bank, and surfers who were able to jam a turn or deep carve on the power points of the waves were greatly rewarded.
Kicking it off through the Men's Round of 128, notable surfers included Thibault Manson, Diogo Martins and Xabier Lopez. All found ample sections to lay down full man-turns and were well rewarded for their efforts with Xabier nailing the first big score of the day, an 8.67 in heat 9.
Hot on his heals was Porto surfer Salvador Couto who impressed with a 7.77. The local boy received the score for a combo of four turns, the first two of which were solid, fully committed affairs that echoed John John's signature move.
"I wanted to start the heat fast so I moved quickly to put myself in priority right away," Salvador said. "I waited for a good one and once I dropped in I saw that it had a good section. I did my bottom turn and saw I could make a nice strong top turn and then I just wanted to finish strong."
But while Diogo and Xabier earned their heat wins with one big scoring wave, several heats had rather paltry tallies at the end.
The nail-biter heat of the day was decided by the slimmest of margins. In Heat 13 of Men's Round 1 the difference between first place and fourth was a razor thin .23 points. Ricardo Brandão got through by putting in just enough extra effort on an outside set wave to take the win with a 6.23 while Tiago Bettencourt earned second with a 6.17. The third and fourth spots were both tied at 6.00.
The women's rounds were held during Porto's infamous north winds that blow sideshore/offshore at Praia de Baia. The gusts were strong enough to white-cap the outside lineup and proved a challenge for many of the diminutive surfers.
France's Bahia Frediani signaled her intentions with the women's single highest wave score of the day, a 6.67 for a series of committed turns in the critical sections on one of the best waves of the heat.
"I took off on that wave and got a good carve and a re-entry and they gave me a good score," she said. "I had priority, so when the wave came through I just grabbed it and went."
Emma Dubès put in the second highest single wave score in the women's event for a series of carves in the difficult afternoon conditions.
The event then scratched into three heats of a planned six-heat march into the Men's Round of 96. The wind, high-tide and early evening glare proved too much too continue as planned.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6:50 for a possible 7:am call.
Wind and swell are forecast to come down Thursday before the wind increases on Friday. A big storm with wind, rains and high surf are forecast for the weekend.
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