- WSL / Laurent Masurel
- WSL / Laurent Masurel
Highlights: Opening Day in the Azores
The Ribeira Grande Pro Junior is rolling and the frontrunners in the race for European Junior title haven't been holding back.

It's all happening! The 2019 European Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) comes to a close this week in paradisiacal Azores with the Ribeira Grande Pro Junior. Competition got underway today in fun, punchy two-to-four foot lefts and right and ran through a couple of rounds of men and women's action at Santa Barbara.

The rankings leaders are here, surfers fighting for a qualifying spot at the World Juniors are here, and a couple of international surfers who came early before next week's QS6,000 are here. Things are going to get electric!

And they already did on Day 1, with a few outstanding performances, the best of which was without a doubt Eduardo Motta's in Round 2. The young Brazilian from Guaruj√° sent a lofty backhand rotation with a double grab to post a perfect 10 point ride and built a massive 17.67 heat win.

Eduardo Motta Goes Perfect
In his first heat at the Ribeira Grande Pro Junior, Brasil's Eduardo Motta got things started with a perfect 10.

"I tried that move twice this morning in training and couldn't make it," he said. "That wave in the heat was so perfect for it I had to try and this time I made it clean. I'm here for the QS mainly but my coach encouraged me to surf in this event to train before, it's great to get familiar with the wave. I broke my foot earlier this year but I feel much better now so hopefully I can make a few rounds, my goal is to crack the Top 100 to enter the Challenger Series next year and why not the CT in a few years."

In the heat prior, young Frenchman Noa Dupouy posted the first two solid scores of the event for his forehand attack of the punchy little lefts of Santa Barbara to advance into Round 3. The 15 year-old who sits 13th on the rankings could climb up a few spots in the final event and play spoilers in the leaders' title chase on the weekend.

"Waves were super fun and the water is warm it's so nice out there," he said. "It's my first time here and it's a beautiful volcanic island. With only the Top 40 here, each heat is that much harder so I'm happy to make that one and look forward to the next. I've trained a lot in Indo lately so I hope I can finish the year with a big result."

Noa Dupouy (FRA) Noa Dupouy (FRA) - WSL / Laurent Masurel

Afonso Antunes claimed a solid first win for the Portuguese flag as well and has put in the work ahead of the event at a location he's not familiar with just yet.

"I'm stoked I got a 7 on a right and tried airs on the lefts even if I couldn't land my shove-it," he said. "I'm going to keep the same strategy going forward. I've been here for a week already, having fun with my friends and surfing great waves. I'm here to have fun but I'd love to win my first event here for sure."

Costa Rica's Malakai Martinez was another standout in the men's event as he belted the day's second-highest heat total of 16.57 for his total domination in Round 2.

The three legitimate contenders for the title Kauli Vaast, Tiago Carrique and Justin Becret all advanced into Round 3 without major fireworks but plenty left in the tank to step it up when it matters most.

Malakai Martinez (CRI) Malakai Martinez (CRI) - WSL / Laurent Masurel

The day wrapped with the first four heats of the women's event. Rankings leader Mafalda Lopes lead the charge with a strong display on the fast-closing lefts as she surfed to a 14.10 total to make her way into Round 2. With a win, a runner-up and two equal 5th this season, the Portuguese is a clear favorite in the women's junior title race but anything could happen this week.

"It feels good to start the competition this way for sure," Lopes said. "I'm super confident coming into this week, I really want to win the event and the title in my last season as a junior. That doesn't feel like extra pressure to me but just pure motivation."

Competitors will be back at 8 a.m for the remaining heats of women's Round 1 and men will come at 9 a.m for a potential start of Round 3.

The Ribeira Grande Pro Junior will unfold from September 13-15 and the Azores Islands Pro the following week from September 17-22, 2019.

Check out all photos, videos, results and of course the LIVE Webcast from Azores right here on worldsurfleague.com.

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