All bets are off.
The men's European Junior title race just got a lot more interesting all of a sudden. Three surfers realistically still have a shot and they're all advancing through the rounds in Sopela. From now on, every wave counts, as the title will be decided by Sunday.
Kauli Vaast, from Tahiti, felt confident in today's heat even if he had to compose with pressure.
"At the start of my heat I was a bit stressed out," he said. "But you need to have fun when you surf, even if the stakes are important. It was not as easy out there. Waves were a bit flat but I managed to combine a few carves and this is how I got good scores."
Kauli won the Junior Pro Biscarrosse, and placed runner up in Caparica. His equal third in Hawaii early in the season is not taken into account for the European title race, but a result like that is always good for confidence.
Kauli will need to finish ahead of Marco Mignot if he wants to bring the trophy home. Brittany's Theo Julitte is currently third on the rankings and needs a win and both Kauli and Marco to lose in the quarters to clinch the Holy Grail.
In the women's, Teresa Bonvalot has already clinched her second consecutive European title a few weeks ago in Espinho. Now the rest of the field is left chasing the No. 2 spot on the rankings, synonym of a qualification for the World Junior Championships in Kiama, Australia early next year.
Women jump on the bandwagon.
After two days of contemplating fun surf from the sidelines, the women were sent out today. They showed the first weekenders freshly arrived in Sopela that professional surfing is not only a male thing. Straight off the first horn, scores immediately reached the good range. That was the start of a half day full of action.
Ellie Turner was one of the first to put on the competition jersey. She showed great motivation and knew how to adapt her technique and strategy to the ever changing conditions on offer.
"Waves were fun out there," she said. "I managed to get a few good ones, the first one on my forehand with a carve and a good re-entry, and the other one I got was on my back hand. It felt good to finally be able to surf a heat."
"My home spot is a perfect reef break," she said. "The waves today are breaking really fast so it's very different from what I'm used to surf, but in a competition you have to adapt to the break. I had fun during my heat and I'm happy to get through."
She almost reached perfection on her first score of 9.23 (out of a possible 10), that she backed up with a 5.83. She advanced into Round Three alongside fifteen other extremely motivated surfers in Sopela.
Call for Saturday is at 8.00 a.m sharp for men and 10.30 a.m for women, and semifinalists should be decided by the end of another long day of competition.
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