- WSL / Laurent Masurel
Highlights: Winners Crowned at 2022 Junior Pro Morocco Mall
The Junior Pro Morocco Mall wraps up and crowns Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (ESP) and Bitor Garitaonandia (ESP) in an exiting finals day in Casablanca, Morocco.

Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri and Bitor Garitaonandia have won the Junior Pro Morocco Mall in historic fashion today, claiming victory in the Finals against Maelys Jouault and Markel Vizcarguenaga respectively, held in two-to-three foot surf at Ain Diab beach.

Stop No.1 of 5 on the European JQS, the Junior Pro Morocco Mall had to compose with small but consistent surf throughout the five-day waiting period, crowning its winners today on a beautiful Sunday in Casablanca, Morocco.

"It feels great to win again," Gonzalez Extabarri said. "I was supposed to be in Australia but unfortunately didn't qualify so I decided to come here with the team and family and I had a lot of fun."

The Basque surfer from Zumaia kept her incredible run of form intact in Morocco with a fourth event win on the JQS in her last five starts. The reigning European Junior title winner will head to the rest of the season with a target on her back as the absolute favorite to claim the regional title again.

"It's my first time visiting Morocco and I loved it," she continued. "Waves weren't very big this week but still fun. Hopefully I'll be back to defend my title!"

Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (ESP), Casablanca 2022 Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (ESP) - WSL / Laurent Masurel

The Final was a relatively low scoring affair and Gonzalez Etxabarri struggled at first to find her rhythm while her opponent Jouault was building house with a couple of decent scores. The Basque turned her energy up on the 10-minute mark and started to shred on the running little lefts, posting the final's highest single score, then backing it up for the win.

Maelys Jouault returned to the podium with her runner-up finish today, her best result since winning the 2017 Junior Pro Biscarrosse. A strong competitor who usually excels in bigger surf, the French surfer from Brittany posted some good scores en route to the Final but couldn't quite find what she hoped for in that last heat.

"There's a lot of positives to take away from this week and of course a little bit of frustration as well to come this close and not go all the way," Jouault admitted. "Waves were really tricky and I made a tactical error in the Final, but I feel like I did well in general in this event. I'm excited to start the season like this and looking forward to the next event."

Gonzalez Etxabarri and Jouault had previously defeated Jaeckin Zoe and Gabriela Dinis respectively in the Semifinals.

The Men's Final was an all-Basque affair between Bitor Garitaonandia and Markel Vizcarguenaga. The youngest of the two, Vizcarguenaga got off to a quick start as he built a healthy 11.27 total but similarly to the women's Final, Garitaonandia started slow but really turned the heat up midway through. The explosive goofy foot started to rip on the lefts and came back in the heat with a 6.47, before sealing the deal on his next wave with a mid 5.

"It feels amazing to finally win an event!" Garitaonandia said. "I've had lots and lots of losses and they're not easy to manage, you have to believe in the process and hard work, so finally to see it pay off is just great."

Garitaonandia's best finish up until now was an equal 9th place both on the junior series and QS, but his abilities are well known by his competitors and he will lead the field as the new European rankings leader heading to Spain.

Bitor Garitaonandia (ESP), Casablanca 2022 Bitor Garitaonandia (ESP) - WSL / Laurent Masurel

"It gives me a lot of confidence to keep working towards my goals and dreams," he added. "Once you know you're capable of winning I think it gets just slightly easier. I know I won't win all the events I surf from now on but I can definitely build on this experience."

18 year-old Markel Vizcarguenaga has been slowly climbing the regional ladder and reached his best finish with the runner-up spot today in Casablanca. The surfer from Gorliz has powerful and dynamic maneuvers working for him and he will be a threat in the remaining events of the season.

"I'm stoked to make my first Final here," Vizcarguenaga said. "I feel like I did a very good job this week, winning all my heats before the Final, and hopefully my time will come. I could have done better in that last heat but I'm still super happy with my performance all together."

Garitaonandia and Vizcarguenaga had previously dispatched Hans Odriozola and Noa Dupouy in their Semifinals matchups.

Neil Aboufiras and Tareq Tehraoui sign the best result from the Moroccan crew in equal 33rd place in the men's division, and Lilias TEBBAÏ posts an excellent equal 9th result in the women's on home turf.

"I'm super happy to have surfed in my first WSL Junior event and especially right here at home," Tebbaï said. "The organization and the vibe on site was awesome, I know the spot quite well but it changes all the time so it was definitely difficult to compete this week. I lost in a really close heat and I feel like I have the potential to go further so I really look forward to competing again against all the girls and trying to improve."

With the completion of the Junior Pro Morocco Mall, here is the regional Top 5:

European Men's JQS Top 3:
1 - Bitor Garitaonandia (ESP)
2 - Markel Vizcarguenaga (ESP)
3 - Hans Odriozola (ESP)
3 - Noa Dupouy (FRA)

European Women's JQS Top 3:
1 - Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (ESP)
2 - Maelys Jouault (FRA)
3 - Zoe Jaeckin (FRA)
3 - Gabriela Dinis (PRT)

Surfers will now fly straight to Spain for the Cabreiroa Junior Pro Ferrol, Stop No. 2 on the European JQS, in Galicia next week.

The Junior Pro Morocco Mall Set to Come Back in 2023

Event site, Casablanca 2022 Event site - WSL / Laurent Masurel

This inaugural edition was a success on all fronts, prompting organizers to announce the event would return in 2023 and look to gain momentum over the next few years. Huge fields of competitors, the best talents from all over Europe, a growing interest from the local surfing community and support from national media made the Junior Pro Morocco Mall hard to miss this week in Casablanca. Surfers and fans already look forward to returning to Ain Diab next year.

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