NewsRibeira Grande Pro JuniorJanire Gonzalez Etxabarri

European Junior Title Race Heats Up in Azores

Highlights: Finals Set for Epic Sunday Finish in Azores
2:15
The Ribeira Grande Pro Junior continues with multiple upsets and finalists determined for an exciting finish on Sunday with the European Junior title on the line.

The Ribeira Grande Pro Junior continued today in similar conditions with wind-affected three foot surf at praia de Santa Barbara to complete multiple rounds of competition and set up exciting finals for tomorrow.

In the last men's round surfed today, rankings leader Kauli Vaast had a shocker for a good half of his heat before he put together a comeback assault. In the lead, Edoardo Papa kept his cool to advance into the Quarters and equal his season's best result so far. The Billabong surfer had his teammates Becret and Carrique in mind as they both chase after Vaast in the European title race.

"This is my last junior event and I'm 7th so honestly not feeling much pressure and I'm just here enjoying myself and trying to surf well," he said. "Waves were a bit small and tough to ride so I'm happy with my heat. There was definitely tension out there you could feel it, I did my part of the job and for a moment I thought I'd really help out Tiago and Justin."

Rankings No. 2 Tiago Carrique had an even worse start with a full 15 minutes without a wave surfed. The young Frenchman tried to manufacture a similar comeback but fell short as Malakai Martinez stole the show and youngster Sam Piter secured a big result, advancing in second to eliminate the winner of the last two junior events in Europe, Carrique.

Kauli Vaast (FRA) Kauli Vaast (FRA) WSL / Laurent Masurel

California's Nick Marshall dominated the round with a confident attack both on the rail and above the lip to take out his spot into the Quarters and eliminate yesterday's sensation Eduardo Motta.

"The waves were a little bit tricky so I'm stoked to get a couple of scores and make it through," he said. "I've never been to Europe and this is a pretty sick place to start, this place is beautiful it's an awesome island. I got into the QS next week so I'm super happy with that and it's good to have this event before to figure stuff out."

Justin Becret continued to steamroll through the early rounds in the last heat and the 2019 European title race is now a two-surfer affair heading into the Ribeira Grande Pro Junior's finals tomorrow.

In the women's Quarterfinals, rankings leader and 2019 overall standout Mafalda Lopes continued on her stellar path towards a first-ever regional title with a dominant display to advance into the Semis. She's now one heat away from claiming the prestigious award in her last year as a junior competitor.

In the second heat, young Canarian up-and-comer Lucia Machado put a convincing heat win over Portugal's Francisca Veselko to make back-to-back Semis and come to life in the back half of the season. At 15 years old, the Gran Canaria surfer has a bright future ahead.

Mafalda Lopes (PRT) Mafalda Lopes (PRT) WSL / Laurent Masurel

"It's really exciting to be back into the Semis for the second time in a row," she said. "Lefts were really fun and they weren't exactly my plan going out but I decided to surf those instead. I'm still young and have plenty of time on the junior series so I don't have any pressure here and I'm pretty relaxed."

Julia Gonzalez took another win for team Canary Islands in a low-scoring affair against Hina-Maria Conradi in the third Quarter. Hailing from the same island as Machado and only slightly older, the pair shows how talented the next generation from the area is.

"This is my first-ever Semifinal so I'm super motivated," she said. "It's only my second year competing at this level so I still have a few things to lear but I'm super happy to be here and excited for the finals tomorrow."

In the last heat of the day, 14 year-old Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri posted the day's upset by eliminating Juliette Lacome on her way to the Semis, the best result of her young career. The goofy foot from the Basque Country ripped the bowly lefts to pieces to post a 14.93 heat total, the biggest of the entire event so far.

"I was super nervous going into this one against Juliette," she said. "This is my best result ever so I'm really happy. Semis are going to be fun, I'm up against my friend Julia so I look forward to it."

Sam Piter (FRA) Sam Piter (FRA) WSL / Laurent Masurel

Surfers will be back at 8:45 a.m for the men's Quarterfinals call as female surfers will come at 10 a.m for their Semis.

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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