The biggest event of the European tour started today, the Caparica Surf Fest powered by Oakley. Not the biggest in terms of points, prize money or waiting period. Not the biggest in terms of wave quality, surfers field or media attention. No, the biggest, or busiest because there are roughly 350 competitors entered into the various categories.
As with most events, Day 1 was mostly surfers who are only starting to compete and trying to build valuable experience in a WSL lycra. Here are a few highlights from the opening day buzz in Costa da Caparica.
Men's QS and Junior Fields Blend on Opening Day
If you have been following events of the past week in Portugal, none of the names in question today will surprise you. In the men QS3,000's second round, the recent quarterfinalist in Santa Cruz Thomas Debierre picked up right where he left off with powerful, dominant surfing in the overhead surf.
The talented 18 year-old surfer from Guadeloupe posted an impressive 15.57 heat total to advance in first out of his second heat in Round 2. Starting right from the opening round, Debierre will once again have a long road ahead if he wants to reach the finals of this event, which he has won as a Junior back in 2016.
"I had a good rest over the weekend and came back fired up today for some more," he stated. "I've surfed a few times here in the past and really appreciate it, it's a powerful, long open wall so that really fits with my surfing. I've had some successes in the past here, I won once and got a third last year so I'm hoping for more. I've had a pretty terrible season last year, plagued by injuries but now I feel good physically and I'm happy to be making heats."
Yesterday, the Junior Pro Espinho culminated with an impressive performance from Justin Becret, who unsurprisingly, given the opportunity to do battle with older competitors, came out firing today in the opening rounds of the QS. Becret belted his own two high-7s to take the win into Round 3, and will juggle back-and-forth between the junior and QS events in Caparica in the coming days.
"I really like those conditions, it's solid and closes out a bit, I'm just having a lot of fun out there," he said. "My focus is clearly on the junior event, so unfortunately if my heats coincide I'll have to drop the QS, but so far so good. Like I said previously, I got really close to the European title last year and I don't want to feel the disappointment again so I'm going to try my best to secure it this year."
Women's QS Runs Opening Round in Testing Conditions
Much like in the men's division, highlights from the opening round of competition of the women's QS1,000 belong to a crew of younger surfers who rose to the challenge of surfing against the QS crowd. More than half of the surfers advancing through Round 1 are 18 years old or younger and will be surfing both events this week.
The winner in Espinho Rachel Presti will open her account in Round 2 when the event resumes, but the task at hand won't be easy as she'll face the likes of former Championship Tour competitor Pauline Ado and Portuguese star Teresa Bonvalot on the Qualifying Series draw.
Israeli Crew Takes On European Junior Tour
Four years into staging a European Qualifying Series event in Netanya, the effects of bringing professional surfers to Israel are starting to show. A new generation of athletes is showing up to compete amongst the many other nations represented on the European junior tour.
In Caparica this week, seven surfers have flown in from the Middle East with hopes of showing what most of us now know, that the territory of Israel has great waves, and great surfers. One of them, 16 year-old Siam Nikritin advanced through both his heats today, leading the pack into Round 3 of the Caparica Surf Fest Junior Pro powered by Oakley.
"I've worked hard at home to make enough money to do the tour so this is going to be my first season doing all the events," he said. "I'm very happy to be in Round 3 now, I made a couple of mistakes in that last heat and I came close to losing but I'll learn from those and try to do better in the next one. We have a fun group here traveling with a coach and we hope to represent our country well. I think seeing all the pros come to Israel has definitely motivated some of us, there was always a lot of surfers, and good surfers in Israel, but the event helped getting people interested in competing."
Competitors will be back on deck at 7:30 a.m Tuesday for a potential early start of Day 2 at the Caparica Surf Fest powered by Oakley.
Watch the Caparica Surf Fest powered by Oakley LIVE on the WSL platforms from April 15-20, and check out daily recaps, pictures, videos and more right here.