The Cabreiroá Pro Zarautz Basque Country pres. by Oakley continued and the Houdini swell that showed up overnight yesterday left just as quickly and behind, clean two-to-three foot lefts and rights kept breaking for a third consecutive day of action in the Basque Country.
Leticia Canales Bilbao took on one of the toughest draws on the women's field, Tahitian Vahine Fierro. Waves slowed down a bit towards the low tide mark but the Basque surfer managed to quickly put two scores on the board while her opponent struggled to find the right waves to surf. Runner-up in her last European event in Tenerife, the goofy foot peaked at the right time to make her way into the Semis.
"It was a tough battle and my first wave was terrible so I just thought let's try this again," she said. "We went on back-to-back waves a lot so it was really entertaining and as I was listening to scores I realized I wasn't in such a bad place."
She'll be joined in Semifinal 1 by Portugal's Teresa Bonvalot in a re-match of their Quarter in Zarautz last year. Bonvalot had a similar slow heat but found the resources to pull through and eliminate compatriot Yolanda Hopkins.
The third Quarter was a battle of the giants, between French surfers Pauline Ado and Justine Dupont. Both former Championship Tour surfers but in very different places career-wise, Dupont concentrating on big wave riding while Ado continues to chase re-qualification.
Dupont put on an impressive effort, especially in the previous round, but as conditions got trickier and heat strategy started to matter more, Ado's years of competing experience came into play as she took the win into the Semis.
The defending event winner in Zarautz, Ado will face Anat Lelior in the second Semi when the event resumes on Saturday. Lelior came out victorious of the tightest battle of the Quarters against Carol Henrique. Both surfers had virtually the same two scores on the board until the Israeli dropped the hammer in the last two minutes of the heat to seal the deal on a Semifinal berth.
"I was stressing out so much, I was looking for good waves and every time I had priority I just left the door open for her," she said. "I'm happy I managed to make it through and will try to learn from my mistakes and keep going."
Maxime Huscenot didn't wait for the final minute to turn his heat, instead he posted a near-perfect 9.67 as his opening score in Quarterfinal 1 against Aboubakar Bouaouda. It was the Frenchman's sixth consecutive heat win as he started in the opening round of competition in Zarautz.
"It was just the perfect start," he said. "With that tide I wasn't sure where the wave would break but there's been so many good lefts and I'm comfortable on my backhand so I decided to stay in position for those. Growing up, Taj (Burrow) was my favorite surfer and I binged on his videos, that last turn with the hand on the nose and the tail throw was definitely inspired by him and I groomed it at home in Reunion Island surfing perfect lefts all the time."
Ruben Vitoria took a page out of Huscenot's book and replicated the exact same strategy in the following Quarter. The local surfer from Zarautz posted a 9.00 right on the buzzer to kick things off and put Rafael Teixeira under pressure. The Brazilian did come back in the fight for a brief moment before Vitoria posted a 7.77 to put him in combo-land. Vitoria joins Canales Bilbao as the last two remaining Basque athletes in contention on home turf.
"It's definitely not the same feeling making heats away or at an event at home," he said. "I had a dream start in that heat and everything was simpler after. I have more experience now and I feel like if I keep doing everything right I can take it out. I have the support of the whole town so it feels amazing."
The two powerful regular foot surfers will meet in Semifinal 1 tomorrow in what should be an exciting fireworks show.
The following two Quarters kept crowds entertained as well with a great battle between Vicente Romero and Mathis Crozon at first, eventually going Romero's way. Then the final heat of the day was a goofy foot showdown between Nomme Mignot and Pedro Henrique, with Mignot taking the last ticket for the Semis in Zarautz.
Surfers and event officials will be back at 9:30 a.m Saturday to likely run the final six heats of the 2019 Cabreiroá Pro Zarautz Basque Country pres. by Oakley.
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!