The ASP 6-Star Swatch Girls Pro France, Stop No. 2 of 3 on the European Women's Qualifying Series (QS), completed four rounds of competition on its opening day. The clean, 2-foot (0.6 meter) A-Frames on offer in the morning turned into a bumpy lineup with strong onshore winds, making wave selection a challenge.
Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), 18, had a sensational start to her Swatch campaign. The Hawaiian upstart is a Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) wildcard, and is in search of precious ranking points to maintain her position next season.
â€œI felt really good going into that heat,â€ Weston-Webb said. â€œI [went over] in my mind like what I needed to do, just stay busy, and I got lucky with the waves that came to me. I got two pretty long rights, and it worked in my advantage.â€
In a difficult position on the WCT and just on the bubble for re-qualifying via the QS, Weston-Webb will need to net two strong results in Europe, a region she particularly appreciates and feels comfortable competing in.
â€œI love the European leg. I'm obsessed with France and I really want to speak French so hopefully I'll learn a little bit while I'm here,â€ she added. â€œCan't wait for Pantin [Classic Pro] as well 'cause I did well there last year so yeah, I'm excited.â€
Mahina Maeda (HAW), 16, a QS surfer currently ranked No. 50 and an excellent Junior competitor, put on one of the day's best performances with two great waves to collect an impressive 15.50 heat total. The young Hawaiian took advantage of the little peaks on offer perfectly.
â€œI honestly feel amazing. I've had a lot of ups and downs traveling, so to come here and have a great start I feel really really happy and accomplished,â€ Maeda said. â€œIt's hard to surf those waves coming from Hawaii, and especially 'cause we don't have that many beach breaks, so it's a big challenge. I ended up getting a win in Virginia beach, and it's a lot like here so it gives me a bit of confidence.â€
Swatch ProTeam rider and current WCT competitor Coco Ho (HAW), 23, advanced into the fifth round with two strong performances in the complicated conditions. A dynamic surfer in the small surf, she managed to read the ocean and find the waves she needed to outscore her opponents.
"It's a tough day of competition," Ho said. "The waves are hard to find and if you need a score, which is the worst position, it's so hard to know where to go to get them. You just got to keep trying and hope time's on your side. That's how I got lucky."
Hailing from the tropical paradise of Hawaii, Ho admitted to having a particular bond with the French event, although she is yet to get in to the final rounds of competition in Seignosse.
â€œIt's amazing to be a Swatch girl at this event. They blow everyone out of the water when it comes to putting on a girls' event,â€ Ho continued. â€œAnd then next month we have [the Swatch Women's Pro Trestles at] Lowers. It's amazing. The three events that were added to the [WCT] this year are probably three of my favorite waves in the world so I'm stoked. I always enjoy France, too, the jetlag is never easy the first couple of days, but I really enjoy it.â€
Another WCT campaigner Johanne Defay (FRA), 20, the defending Junior event champion and runner-up of the 6-Star in France last year, surfed a solid heat to easily advance into the fourth round. Not affected by the pressure on her shoulders, Defay managed to perform in the waist-high surf and displayed her usual powerful approach.
â€œIt's great to get through, especially in difficult conditions; that first heat is always a little stressing,â€ Defay commented. â€œA lot of people like to remind me of my result last year, but I try not to think too much about this. The WCT this year is my main concern. I want to do really well, so I'm more relaxed in the other events.â€
With two solid fifth place results in Fiji and the US Open, Defay sits in 10th position on the World rankings. Halfway through her rookie season among the Top 17, she has begun to make good use of the knowledge she's been gaining on the Tour.
â€œEven if it doesn't show much right now, I definitely feel like I have a way more professional approach,â€ Defay added. â€œIt's all those little details in my everyday preparation. I learned a lot. I feel more comfortable on tour and can concentrate more on myself and my surfing.â€
Unfortunately for the young French surfer, she was not able to find decent scoring opportunities in her next heat, defeated by an in-form Nikki Van Dijk (AUS).
Surfers and event officials will reconvene Thursday at 7:00 a.m. local time to decide on the day's schedule of competition. Catch up on the women's QS standings with Al Hunt's Situation Room and the guru's perspective on the shakeup.