We're not even talking qualification or anything, although some careers have started in the blink of an eye, but could this be the year the Frenchman from Vendee cracks the QS top spots and change his status to potential CT threat?
It's Day 1 at the Pro Santa Cruz pres. by Oakley and the event launched in wind-affected two-to-four foot. Conditions are not really inviting at first glance but there's definitely tension in the air as we're about to launch the QS3,000.
Tristan Guilbaud walks into the WSL office on-site with hopes of getting a spot in Santa Cruz. He's currently 48th on the QS, but entered the event slightly past the deadline and finds himself on the alternate list. Two guys drop out of Heat 2 and that's it, he's in.
The surfing Tristan produced today is not his best by any standard, but he did the job he came here to do, win heats, two of them already. It's his seventh season on the QS but clearly something's changed. He surfs better, falls less, posts big scores more often than not and finds himself in the Top 50 of the series four months in.
That sudden improvement rings a bell doesn't it? It feels a lot like Jorgann Couzinet's breakout season last year. Tristan is yet to post a result on one of the bigger events, but he's slowly building momentum, confidence and it really shows. So the question stands, can he?
"The biggest change in my approach has been to go from building frustration after losses to actually learning from those and fixing them in the next heats," he said. "I learnt that from traveling with Jorgann last season and surfing a lot with him. He had such a good season last year and it was inspiring to witness."
Well he's clearly a smart competitor, his winning ratio has improved drastically, and from what we hear in post-heat interviews he's given lately, his motivation seems to be peaking. He also looks happy, relaxed and that definitely helps.
"My surfing hasn't changed a whole lot, obviously when you're confident you fall less and you take a bit more risks but in general I surf the same," he added. "It's fixing minor things that make you go through some close ones and you come back stronger in the next heat, I'm just happy it all falls together this season for me."
His surfing is actually similar to Jorgann's in a way, they're both powerful surfers who prefer to lay down big carves on a clean open wall. However at this point Tristan probably lacks the air game, the trump card that's saved Jorgann a few times.
The Pro Santa Cruz pres. by Oakley will be a great test for him as if he can advance into Round Four, the field will resemble the latter round of a QS10,000, which we guess is where he wants to go right now.
"I don't think there's more pressure in the bigger events, but the field is so much stronger you have to come out firing right from the start," he continued. "You don't have the kind of easy early rounds to figure out the wave and your equipment, you have to be on your best game right from the get-go."
As for other highlights in today's event, South Africa's Shane Sykes got the highest combined heat total, Jose Gundesen followed closely and the biggest upset came in the very last heat with an early exit from Tiago Pires.
Check out all results, photos and video highlights from the Pro Santa Cruz pres. by Oakley from April 24-29.