The Quiksilver and Roxy Junior Pro 40 wrapped up today in excellent waves again in Capbreton. With European junior titles on the line, the tension was maximum on finals day and the heats didn't disappoint.
The women's Final was an interesting matchup of two surfers who are destined to do great but haven't really capitalized so far this year. Juliette Lacome leads the next generation of French surfers but with two equal fifths early on this year, and missing the third event, she was at a disappointing 12th on the regional rankings.
Melania Suarez Diaz came out of nowhere last year when she won the opening event of the season in splendid fashion and has since then been on our radar as the next super talent hailing from the Canary Islands. But as she slowly fell down the rankings throughout 2018 and the beginning of this year, doubts started to arise.
Both surfers fought hard to reach the Final in Capbreton as they eliminated the current leader and number 2 in the European title race respectively in the Quarters and fully deserved the honors. The Final was a blow-for-blow battle in the fun little rights of low tide Santocha, but Lacome's approach on her forehand was just too good and she claimed the win with an impressive 15.40 total.
"It was a stressing week for me as I was pretty far in the rankings," she said. "But we had super fun waves and it's great to compete near home. It's great to finally win an event on the junior tour, and to do it here in France is even better."
With this result, Lacome rocketed up to third on the rankings with a mathematical chance to claim the title in the final event of the year later this summer in Azores.
"The last comp is going to be tough because Mafalda and Ellie are such good surfers and they've got a good lead on me," she continued. "But I did what I had to do here and I know I'm capable of doing it again, I'll just need to be 100% focused and mentally prepared."
For Suarez it was more a matter of rebuilding confidence in her surfing and though the 750 rankings points won today pushed her up to 5th on the regional rankings, there's very little chance she'll be in reach of a qualifying spot for the World Junior Championship.
"I'm super happy with my result today," she said. "Waves were excellent this week so I had a lot of fun. I started really bad in the first few events so it's great to get a big result and I hope I can do as well or better in the final event."
With two more seasons in the juniors though, there's plenty more time to achieve big success for the young Canarian.
The men's Final was a totally different story. Kauli Vaast is a former European junior champ and the current leader on the rankings. Tiago Carrique was sitting third coming into this week and carrying momentum from his win in La Torche in May.
The heat started with an odd race to the inside of both surfers fighting for first priority. It eventually lead them behind the breakwall, well out of the competition area and in fact out of sight for most people, including the judges. When the surfers were called back in the heat got underway.
The all-goofy foot affair then turned into a wave-selection fight as both surfers attacked the waves on their backhand similarly. Carrique found the best options and was able to push his turns better, racking up two great scores to take the win with a 15.57 heat total over Vaast's 15.16.
"I've never won an event before and now that's two back-to-back so that's epic!" he said. "I'm still riding the same board from La Torche, I haven't changed much since then, I've just surfed a lot and trained hard for this. My goal coming into this year was to fight for the title so I'm super happy to be in the race now. My dad took a day off to come watch me today so I'm stoked he was able to be here today."
This result pushed him up to second on the rankings with a clear shot at the title in the final event of the year.
Vaast had a golden opportunity to secure his second European Junior title in Capbreton with a win, but couldn't quite match Carrique's rhythm this afternoon and had to settle for second place. The Tahitian still keeps the upper-hand as his impressive results so far this season: 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd will require his opponents to go big to overtake him.
"I really wanted to win this but I guess I didn't get the right waves today," he explained. "I felt like I did what I could but I wasn't really lucky with the conditions. That's twice that Tiago has beat me now so hopefully if there's a third time it'll go my way!"
During the podium ceremony, World No. 16 and local hero Jeremy Flores came to congratulate the finalists and expressed his emotion after seeing junior surfing back in Capbreton.
"I was so stoked to see an event back here at the Santocha in Capbreton," he said. "It's a legendary event and all the greats have surfed here. Waves have been super fun this week and the kids absolutely ripped! Both the boys and girls were super impressive, there are plenty of surfers that I'd never seen and I'm impressed with the level in general, I think the future of European surfing is in great hands. If they can keep their head down and continue to work hard, I'm sure some of them have a very bright future ahead."
Here's a preview of the current European rankings post-Capbreton:
Surfers will now have until mid-September to train for the final event on the 2019 European Junior Qualifying Series, the Ribeira Grande Pro Junior in the Azores.
Tune in from July 17-21, 2019 and check out all the photos, videos and updates right here on worldsurfleague.com!