Nicolas Paulet and Annette Gonzalez Etxabarri have won the E.Leclerc Pont-l'Abbé Junior Pro La Torche pres. by Yelloh! Village La Plage today, claiming victory in the Finals against Kai Odriozola and Maelys Jouault held in two-to-three foot surf at the iconic La Torche point.
Stop No.3 on the 2022 World Surf League (WSL) European Junior Qualifying Series (JQS), the E.Leclerc Pont L'Abbé Junior Pro La Torche pres. by Yelloh! Village La Plage has been blessed with epic conditions on the weekend culminating with today's finals.
The fifth consecutive day of action resumed on a beautiful morning with the remains of the long period swell that blessed the event with epic conditions on Saturday. The women's Quarterfinals hit the lineup first and surfers alternated all the way to the Finals.
Men's Final: Odriozola Tries Again, Paulet Comes Through Big Time
The men's Final had a deja-vu taste for young Basque surfer Kai Odriozola who was already in the Final in La Torche last year, and on the other hand a brand new flavor for Nicolas Paulet who'd never made it past the Quarters up until today.
It was a tense matchup where the lead changed hands multiple times that eventually came down to a battle of the backup scores. Odriozola had the highest single-scoring ride of 8.67 against Paulet's 8.43, but the Frenchman found the better second wave of 7.33 and came out victorious for the first time on the junior tour.
"I'm super happy to win my first event the first time I make the Final," Paulet said. "We had really good waves for this whole event and I made it through some pretty big heats. I'm stoked I was able to show what I can do."
Hailing from Biarritz, 18 year-old Paulet had three Quarterfinal finishes to his name before today but never advanced in a two-surfer heat before his breakout win in Brittany. This result shot him up into 6th on the European rankings before the last stop of the season with a mathematical chance to claim one of the qualifying spots for the World Junior Championships.
"I came here early for the Open de France and won the junior division so it gave me plenty of confidence," Paulet added. "I love coming here, people are very friendly and I had an awesome support crew."
San Sebastian's Kai Odriozola made his third Final appearance today, having lost the previous two against fellow Basque surfer Adur Amatriain and was the favorite on paper to take the title in La Torche. The progressive 16 year-old put on a show all week but was missing just one more opportunity on a set wave to try to turn the heat and had to settle for another runner-up finish.
"I didn't start this season very well and I came here needing a big result," Odriozola admitted. "I made the Final here last year so I definitely like the place. I started well with the best wave of the heat but I struggled to find a good backup. Nicolas was ripping the whole event so I'm stoked for him. I look forward to the next one to try again, maybe I need a little bit more luck on my side and hopefully I can finally win one!"
Women's Final: Local Favorite Lights Crowds Up but the Title Stays in the Gonzalez Etxabarri Family
Local-favorite Maelys Jouault delighted the large crowds in La Torche by reaching the Final against last year's winner's sister Annette Gonzalez Etxabarri. It was a battle of experience vs youth, power vs speed that provided plenty of fireworks in the somewhat declining swell.
Both surfers put on an amazing performance, posting one score each above 9 points and a back up around 7. The final margin was minimal but eventually it was Gonzalez Etxabarri who edged out Jouault to take out her first win on the Junior QS.
The 15 year-old from the Basque Country avenged her sister Janire, the 2021 winner in La Torche who lost against Jouault in the first heat of the day. Annette Gonzalez Etxabarri has been slowly climbing up the ranks on the junior scene and posted a big statement win today as she eyes multiple seasons on the JQS. She will head to the last stop ranked 3rd on the regional standings.
"I'm very happy to win here today in La Torche, it was a pretty nervous day," Gonzalez Etxabarri said. "I know Maelys is a very good surfer and the waves were a bit soft but I managed to surf well. I loved coming here, it's very beautiful and somewhat similar to home. My sister and I have a friendly rivalry and I'm just getting started but hopefully I can win as much as she did, if not more."
Maelys Jouault's heartbreak loss today in front of her home crowds marks the third time this season the surfer from Northern Brittany placed runner-up after finals lost in Morocco and Lacanau. However she continues to show an impeccable run of form in 2022 and cemented her 2nd place in the rankings before the final event of the season.
"It's a really tough one to lose this one," Jouault reflected. "I'm still super happy with the way I surfed, especially in those smaller waves that are not my strong suit. It's my last year as a junior and I have one more opportunity so I'll give everything I have. We're on the road a lot and I'm usually on my own so it was awesome to come here and feel the support from everyone."
With the completion of the E.Leclerc Pont L'Abbé Junior Pro La Torche pres. by Yelloh! Village La Plage, the race to the European Junior title continues, here are the current rankings:
European Men's JQS Top 5:
1 - Bitor Garitaonandia (ESP)
2 - Noa Dupouy (FRA)
3 - Markel Vizcarguenaga (ESP)
4 - Kai Odriozola (ESP)
5 - Yago Dominguez (EUK)
European Women's JQS Top 5:
1 - Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (ESP)
2 - Maelys Jouault (FRA)
3 - Annette Gonzalez Etxabarri (EUK)
4 - Lucia Machado (CNY)
5 - Aelan Vaast (FRA)
Surfers will now have five weeks to prepare for the next and final event on the 2022-23 European Junior Qualifying Series, the Azores Junior Pro.
The E.Leclerc Pont L'Abbé Junior Pro La Torche pres. by Yelloh! Village La Plage is scheduled from September 7-11, 2022 at La Torche, Plomeur, Pays-Bigouden, Finistère - Bretagne / France. Find out all about the event's live scores, results and updates at WorldSurfLeague.com, on the free WSL app as well as our social networks Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.