Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) and Tessa Thyssen (GLP) have won the inaugural Espinho Surf Destination, stop No.1 on the European Pro Junior Series, in clean two-to-three-foot waves at the pristine venue of Praia de Baia, Espinho, Portugal.
An ecstatic Ribeiro was carried up the beach and acclaimed by the crowds and his peers alike after coming out on top of a tricky final. Starting his 2014 campaign in the best of forms, the 19-year-old will need to keep his momentum going into the next event on the European Junior Series.
"We haven't had a Pro Junior in Portugal for a long time, so I'm stoked to win this one," Ribeiro reflected. "It's a long year and I think all events are equally important toward the title race. I'll just stick to my gameplan and give everything I have every step of the way. I think it's going to be a great year.â€
In a wave-starved final, Ribeiro caught just the required two waves to take the win. An undisputed standout in earlier rounds, he confirmed he could handle everything the ocean threw at him.
"I knew it was going to be slow so I tried to start big in the first few minutes," Ribeiro explained. "I wanted to stick to the rights cause I thought more would come through but in the last five minutes with only one wave I had to paddle across towards the other guys and luckily I found my second ride there."
Despite a very slow start to his Finals bout, Natxo Gonzalez (EUK), 18, found his rhythm halfway through. He became the most active surfer in the lineup, placing runner-up to an untouchable Ribeiro.
"It was tricky, but I'm proud of my result," Gonzalez said. "I won heats before against Tom Cloarec (FRA), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) and others, so it's a huge confidence boost for me. I surfed a new board that my shaper and I have been working on, and without any sort of training in those conditions, it just went perfect and I'm stoked on my equipment."
The next ASP European Pro Junior event will be at his home break of Sopela in Basque Country, Spain, July 24 -27, 2014. Gonzalez is hoping his momentum will help him defeat Ribeiro, which he last did in Lacanau, last year.
In the women's Final disputed a little earlier, Thyssen, 17, took control of the proceedings from the start and never let go, winning her first-ever ASP Pro Junior event. Surfing impressively on both her forehand and backhand, Thyssen paddled on almost every wave to collect one of the highest heat totals of the event.
"I am incredibly happy to win my first Pro Junior," Thyssen said. "It's a great start to my campaign, I'm going to continue to train and keep my rhythm going over the next few months. It was hard, this Final, but I kept busy to find waves and it worked out well."
Thyssen's road to the Final was a bumpy one, but by her last Heat, she let go of her caution and gave everything she had.
"It took me some time to really feel good in this event," Thyssen confirmed. "I only started to improve my scores in the Semis, and I can thank my coach, Eric Termeau, who's pushed me and had the right words to get the machine going. In the Final I was so stressed I paddled super fast and I wanted to surf everything."
The youngest surfer in the Finals, Teresa Bonvalot (PRT), 14, skillfully fended off her competition for second place. She controlled her position and scored higher than her more experienced rivals in the water. Improving on her best-ever result of fourth last year, Bonvalot leads the charge amongst the crowd of Portuguese up-and-comers to watch in future events.
"It was tough, there was a lot of hassling in the lineup," Bonvalot said. "I just focused on getting two good waves and tried to take the best ones. I'm happy cause it's only my second Final and I'm improving on my best result last year."