The inaugural SEAT Pro Netanya pres. by Billabong launched today in wind-affected building three-to-four foot surf and completed the opening rounds of both the men and women's competitions as well as the first eight heats of the men's second round.
The day started the worst of ways for Halley Batista (BRA), 29, who missed the beginning of his Round 1 heat. The Brazilian still managed to advance in first place and regrouped before going out in the tough conditions for a second heat. Batista then took his act to the next level and performed an impressive Kerrupt flip for a 9-point-ride and his ticket into the third round.
"I woke up too late this morning, I got lucky someone called me and woke me up cause I made it to the beach right in time to get in the water," Batista commented. "I focused a lot before the next heat and thankfully I got a few fun waves. I tried that air and made it so I'm stoked, now I'm feeling confident and I'll take each heat seriously cause I really want to win this contest."
Arne Bergwinkl (DEU), 20, secured one of the day's top single scores, an excellent 8.50 for a combination of turns on his forehand. The young German surfer will be featured in the opening heat of Round 3 and face tough competition in one of the best Israelis today Moshe Perez and former juniors Nelson Cloarec (FRA) and Henrique Pyrrait (PRT).
"I was shocked by how strong the wind was, in the competitors you couldn't feel it much and walking down the beach I realized how hard it was going to be," Bergwinkl said. "You have to deal with it, once you paddle over the point the rip takes you out in like 10 seconds so you just hope you can catch a good wave right away. There are plenty of waves and a few fun ones, I got that nice left and did a few turns so I was happy to get a good score."
World famous free surfer Ozzie Wright (AUS), 39, surprised the field when he entered the event a day before competition started. The Australian also surprised in his choice of equipment, opting to ride a classic twin-fin setup in the blown-out surf.
"Our friend Yossi just invited us to come and check out the country of Israel and while we're here we thought we might as well get in the event just for fun," Wright said. "I'm having heaps of fun here, great people, very friendly. I'd never thought I'd be surfing here, especially in a competition but it's really cool to meet all the community in one place. Waves were bigger than I expected and it's all windy and crazy, I like it, it was exciting."
Former professional surfer Adi Gluska (ISR), advanced through to the second round in his first time competing in years, and led a talented field of Israelis on the opening day of competition. Gluska took full advantage of surfing frontside on the running lefts and exploited the right waves on his way to a solid scoreboard.
"I used to do all the European tour back in the day, now I'm 42 years old and it's fun to do it again and come compete here against these younger guys, I'm very competitive and I still love surfing!" Gluska said. "It's a very unique event and I'm grateful for this opportunity. Israel's image in the news is often negative and I hope this event can help change that a little bit and give people a different perspective on life here. There are some strong competitors from Europe but Israel has some talents too and I hope they can upset some of the favorites."
Gluska unfortunately later failed to reiterate his morning exploits and was forced out of competition in the second round.
Carol Henrique (PRT), 20, recent ninth place finisher at the Ericeira World Junior Championships, belted the highest score of the women's opening round, an impressive 8.67 for a two-turn combination on her backhand.
"It's my first time here and I'm happy to start with a win," Henrique said. "It's good to have new events on the European tour, I really like coming to a new country and discovering new spots. I'm traveling with my brother, he supports me a lot and it's great to have him by my side."
"It was definitely tricky with the strong rip and wind but I made it work," Le Car said. "These weren't ideal conditions to start with but I'm super happy to be here, my family is originally from the Mediterranean and it's great to experience surfing very different conditions."
Fresh off a win at the Women's Shoe City Pro, Le Car had just enough time to travel from the USA to Israel and will look to keep her momentum going into the following rounds when the event resumes.
"I was stoked to win in California, there were some really good surfers and I had a good run," Le Car continued. "All my efforts and work seem to be paying off and it's a great way to start the season. This is a totally different event and I'll try to go all the way as well but conditions are different and surfers as well. I'm looking forward to the rest of the event and hopefully great conditions."
Event organizers will come back to Kontiki beach Tuesday at 8:45AM to reassess conditions for a potential restart of the men's event, while the women will not surf before Wednesday.
Surfline, official forecasters for the event, are calling for:
Fading WNW swell on Saturday drops through the day and the surf is minimal on Sunday. Solid increase in windswell on Monday and into Tuesday with strong onshore winds. Fading surf with easing local winds allow conditions to improve for mid/late week.