We all knew that swell was coming but wow did it not disappoint! The Cabreiroá Pro Zarautz Basque Country pres. by Oakley resumed in unruly, six-to-eight foot surf at first light and challenged surfers in the men and women's divisions through another long day of competition. Highlights today included an avalanche of 9s from young, old, new and experienced competitors, here are a few standout stories from Day 2 in the Basque Country.
Cannelle Bulard Nails Near-Perfect Heat
We talked comeback stories yesterday with injured surfers chasing their form back, but here's one for the ages. Cannelle Bulard was one of the rising stars of European surfing a few years back, she won the ASP European Junior title and even an amateur World Junior Champion title in 2011, tied with Sage Erickson in 10th on the QS at the end of 2010, and continued to compete at the highest level for a couple of years.
And then she quit. Surfing competitively that is, as even landlocked for her studies she always found some time to get in the water, just away from the tour. She studied, graduated, started working and then quit again. But this time she quit the 9-to-5 life to get back to her first love, competing. And here we are, a couple of years in, she won a QS event in South Africa last year and earlier this season clinched a 3rd in Newcastle to find herself No. 4 on the rankings.
"I just missed it way too much," she said. "I'm so happy to be back on tour, competing is everything I love. I actually had bad memories of the Australian leg from when I was younger but this time we stayed with locals and they took us and showed us around, we also had great waves and all in all it was a great trip and a really nice experience."
Today she paddled out in solid surf, granted the paddle out part wasn't her proudest moment, but then went on to annihilate the poor sections on her path to Round 3, to post a near-perfect 9.60 and a 9.00 for the event's highest heat total.
"When it's big and chunky like this I know it's conditions that suit me so I was really excited to get out there," she continued. "My game plan was to surf that nice left just out front and instead I ended up way down the beach on a right, I just did whatever I could to make it through the sets. It took me over 10 minutes to reach the lineup and the heat had already started. Thankfully that was enough to find those two waves and do a couple of turns."
Vahine Fierro's Observation Round is Over
Last year was the 2017 WSL Junior Champ Vahine Fierro's first full season on the QS, and it didn't quite go according to plan. World Junior Champions often carry huge expectations when they graduate from the under-18 series, but for the Tahitian, 2018 is a year to quickly forget. A series of deceiving performances resulted in an overall 51st place finish on the rankings.
"It was a disaster really for me," she admitted. "I couldn't get through any heats, I only got one decent result in Pantin when I reached the sixth round. I was frustrated all the time and never really enjoyed where I was at. I had no self-confidence whatsoever and it affected my surfing. I think maybe I was impressed by some of the names I was surfing against."
Was that enough to send her home in shambles? Not quite, instead she put her foot down, found a coach and started working towards realizing her true potential and it looks like it's already paying dividends going into 2019.
"This year I'm working with Shaun Ward as a coach and we're traveling together to the bigger events," she added. "It's great to have someone to work with, not just for my surfing but also to create a routine at these important events and get in a good place to compete. My 3rd place in Australia was a good boost mentally, I beat some good surfers and it helps believing that I can do this."
Fierro reached the Semifinals of a QS6,000 in Sydney earlier this year and is now looking to build momentum in Zarautz before the summer leg of events which carry huge points for the qualifying race. Today she posted the highest single-wave score of the women's second round to launch her campaign in Zarautz.
Local Wildcard Shines in Difficult Conditions
Picture this, solid 6+ Ft sets, a 14 year-old, tiny local surfer. The outcome is not what you expect. Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri received a wildcard which saw her join the show in Round 2 directly and she surfed like a top seed, rightfully deserving her winning spot ahead of long time CT surfer Pauline Ado.
"I usually prefer smaller waves than this, last week in La Torche was super fun!" she said. "But I tried to stay super busy and take anything I could on the inside reform there, it was alright. I train here everyday with my coach, it's my homebreak so I'm super happy to make that heat and hopefully more."
The bright blonde kid from just down the road in Zumaia is starting to reach the final rounds on the junior series and this week she has a shot at gauging her current level with Europe's best, on her home spot.
Aranburu's Competitive Fire Still Burning
"We actually hang a lot together and I always try to give him a little bit of what I learned competing all those years," he said. "He rips, having him in a heat is a tough draw and I'm sure he has a bright future. We have a really talented crew of young surfers from the Basque Country and some of them will definitely be pro surfers."
A four-year stint on the CT earned him global recognition but the Basque powerful surfer still has traveling energy in the bank and continues to chase the elusive Top 10 finish on the QS.
"This has been such an important event for me all my life," he continued. "I grew up watching international pros come here and perform, then pack it up and go, and that's for the most part what motivated me to chase this life. If I'm competing I'm setting big goals for myself, so qualification is always in the back of your mind, but now that I have years of experience I also try to choose my events wisely and have fun."
Outside of the European events, Aranburu competed at Pipeline (Hawaii), Fernando Do Noronha (Brazil) and Indonesia last week, that is virtually the dream tour but with QS points on the line.
Other highlights from earlier today included Maxime Huscenot with his 17.07 heat total, Leon Glatzer with an excellent 8.50, Marc Lacomare and his 9.60. Maxime went next level in the following round with a 9.80 and all three surfers advanced out of Round 3 later this afternoon
Six surfers already advanced into Round 5 this evening, the last four-surfer heats round before the Quarterfinals. Competition is supposed to resume shortly after the 9 a.m call Friday.
Tune in from May 8-12, 2019 to watch the event LIVE (starting Friday) and check out all the photos, videos and updates right here on worldsurfleague.com!