It's Day 4 of the waiting period at the E.Leclerc Pont L'Abbé Junior Pro La Torche and things took a serious turn today with the men's Rounds Four and Five as well as the women's Quarterfinals. Waves continued to pump and as eliminations continued, surfers stepped up a notch to grab their spot for finals day.
Currently tied in the No. 1 spot on the European rankings, Marco Mignot was the first surfer to crack the excellent range this morning. Winner of the last event in Portugal, the French-Mexican carried confidence and will be hard to stop in the finals.
"Waves have been easier to negotiate today and I had a lot of fun in both my heats," he said. "It's my last season in the juniors so I definitely want to claim that title but I feel no pressure. I'm enjoying competing so much and I know this is just the beginning for me so I'm just having fun along the way. Brittany is insane, nature is so beautiful here and the waves have been pumping."
The reigning European champ Kauli Vaast may have had a shocker in the previous event but he came back firing today with performances of another level to post a near-perfect 18.37 in Round Four. Could he have peaked too early? Only time will tell, but Kauli managed to post a second win later today for a spot in the Quarters.
"I'm stoked everything's going my way today," he said. "I feel more confident after each heat and I feel like my surfing is getting better and better. I've worked a lot on pacing my turns on a wave and selecting the right ones instead of surfing everything. I've done the runaround a few times today and it's quite physical out there but I still have some energy left in the tank so I look forward to the rest of the event."
Justin Becret hasn't been the most consistent surfer in competition so far, but 2018 could be his breakout year on the Junior Qualifying Series. If it wasn't for a broken board in the semis in Espinho, Justin might even have a win under his belt and be in fighting position for the title. Today he absolutely reveled in the powerful surf and posted two 9+ rides on his way to the Quarters. With waves predicted to potentially be a touch bigger for the finals, this could be the French's time to shine in La Torche tomorrow.
"I got into a good rhythm out there and found myself alone in the peak when that bomb came," he said. "Waves are super fun, they're really consistent and have a lot of wall to work with. I've been coming to Brittany for a while and I've never been disappointed. I think the key out there is the first turn where you need to risk it all, and then finish cleanly, but there's definitely potential for huge scores."
The women's field didn't quite master the conditions as well as the men today, but the Quarterfinal results delivered plenty of upsets as title frontrunners failed to keep the upper hand and the underdogs managed to surf past them.
"I had been watching the two heats before and it didn't look easy out there but I managed to find a couple big lefts," Lartigue said. "I've been concentrating on the QS more the year, but with a good result here I might do Biscarrosse next week as well just in case. I'm trying to balance surfing and my last year of high-school with the exams coming up so it's not easy but so far I'm working it out."
Several activations kept everyone entertained on-site, both in and out of the water, including a demonstration of "handi-surf", a French NGO promoting surfing for people with disabilities. François Gabart, the fastest man to sail solo non-stop around the world, and an ambassador for Handi-Surf, came to share his passion for all things oceanic. A keen surfer himself, Gabart kept a close look on the competition while he visited the site in La Torche.
"I've been supporting Handi-Surf for a few years now and it was great to come today for this event and share a good moment with them," Gabart said. "Our goal is to make surfing accessible to people who normally wouldn't have the opportunity. Surfing makes me personally very happy and I think it has the same effect on most so it's great to be able to bring joy to these people with this unique sport. It was fun to watch the surfers out there for the event too and it shows the potential for great conditions in Brittany."
With only one more day in the event's waiting period, event officials will make a final call at 10:30 a.m Sunday for the launch of the finals.
Tune in from May 9-13, 2018 and check out all the photos, videos and updates right here!