The Pro Zarautz pres. by Oakley continued on Day 2 with slightly smaller surf, slightly more side shore winds but still super fun three-to-five foot waves breaking all-day in Zarautz. Men and women took it to the lineup to complete two rounds and leave only 16 surfers in each event.
Pauline Ado dominated the first Round Two heat and posted two excellent waves above 8 points to advanced ahead of Cannelle Bulard and former World Champion Sofia Mulanovich . The last time Pauline competed in Zarautz she won the event, in 2016, and she looked like her motivation was intact and surf-game even stronger than back then.
"I was struggling a bit physically as it's been a long trip back from Barbados, so I didn't really give everything I had but instead I tried to surf smart," she reflected. "I'm very happy to be back here, obviously I have excellent memories from 2016 and I hope I can do just as well. But there are a lot of girls that are surfing really well, and I remember being a Junior and wanting to beat the older girls so I'm not taking anything for granted."
Though maybe the bigger story was the return to form of Cannelle. The Reunion Island surfer quit professional surfing in 2013 as one of the most promising juniors in Europe, deciding to step away from the jersey to focus on her studies.
Four and a half years later and a physiotherapist diploma in the pocket, she's come back to the QS for more. Starting from scratch, Cannelle has to earn her way into the bigger events and chips away with heat wins in all the regional meets she can get a spot into. Today in Zarautz she attacked the rights on her backhand with the flow and power she was known for and started dropping scores in the excellent range again, only motivating her more to keep going.
"I'm barely starting to feel the contest vibe again," she said. "I sort of forgot how to behave in a 20 or 25-minute heat, and especially now that there are priorities in four-man heats. So little by little I'm trying to find a rhythm again and find strategies that work for me."
A former European Junior Champion, Cannelle is of Pauline and Johanne Defay's generation, and sure wouldn't mind having a similar trajectory surf-wise, only with a slightly delayed start.
"My surfing feels good at the moment, I spent about a month at home and with the surveillance program I was able to surf quite a lot," she continued. "Plus I have a new perspective now, I've done something very different for the past four years and now I have a back-up plan, I can go and work as a physio any time if I want or need to, so that's another kind of mindset."
Maud Le Car and Garazi Sanchez-Ortun were the other two form surfers in Round Two. Maud posted two excellent scores while Garazi claimed the event's highest single-wave score so far - men and women combined - a near-perfect 9.23.
In the men's, Hodei (Collazo) continued to make full use of the home-turf advantage and took out one of the day's biggest heats against good friends Gony Zubizarreta and Marc Lacomare to advance into Round Five.
On a last-second effort, Hodei ripped the bag out of a long right and displayed his signature rail game to post the winning 7.23 and come in ecstatic after a big claim at the end of the wave. If anything after fifteen years on tour, Hodei looked fired up as ever, probably by the number of fans and friends cheering him on the beach.
"With the low tide and strong winds honestly none of us knew what was happening out there so I just kept looking for the best waves and trying to surf them well," he said. "It's great to compete at home again, especially with all my friends and in really fun waves. It's going to be a good finish and I hope we have a Basque winner!"
A much rarer face on the QS is Nic Von Rupp's. The Portuguese big-wave maniac is more often than not chasing heavy swells anywhere on the planet and only rarely shows up on a regional event. But the proximity with Portugal and the strong ties Nic has with the local crew of Hodei, Aritz (Aranburu) and co. was enough to convince him to join the fun.
Clearly just as comfortable in four foot beach breaks than on a bombing slab, Nic cruised his way through the first four rounds and could upset the Spanish and Basque crew in the final rounds.
"When I have an opportunity, I love coming back to competitions, I love everything about surfing and competing and seeing how you do against the groms is always fun," he said. "Yesterday we had all-time waves for the QS and I'm really stoked to be here. I don't think I've ever won a QS but that's definitely the goal every time I enter an event."
The final men's heat of the day almost witnessed the unthinkable when Aritz was pretty much eliminated with seconds on the clock, but with a last-ditch effort the local legend and long-time CT surfer got his ticket for Round Five.
Event officials will reconvene Thursday at 10 a.m to assess conditions and potentially launch one round of the women's event, and later at 4 p.m for another call and a potential men's round.
Find out all the results, photos, video highlights and daily recaps from Zarautz right here.