The inaugural Ribeira Grande Pro Junior launched today in punchy two-to-four foot lefts and right and ran through a couple of rounds of men and women’s action at Santa Barbara.
While the three legitimate contenders in the men’s European junior title race Kauli Vaast (FRA), Tiago Carrique (FRA) and Justin Becret (FRA) advanced into Round 3 without major fireworks, standouts came from both further down the regional ranks as well as international surfers.
Eduardo Motta (BRA) got the full judging panel’s approval on a crazy aerial maneuver with a perfect 10 point ride in his first-ever heat in Azores. The young surfer from Guarujá sent a lofty backhand rotation with a double grab and put everyone else on notice of his intentions in the event.
“I tried that move twice this morning in training and couldn’t make it,” Motta said. “That wave in the heat was so perfect for it I had to try and this time I made it clean. I’m here for the QS mainly but my coach encouraged me to surf in this event to train before, it’s great to get familiar with the wave. I broke my foot earlier this year but I feel much better now so hopefully I can make a few rounds, my goal is to crack the Top 100 to enter the Challenger Series next year and why not the CT in a few years.”
Costa Rica’s Malakai Martinez (CRI) was a close second in the day’s top scores with a solid 16.57 to make it out of 16.57. Both surfers followed the way Noa Dupouy (FRA) showed in a prior heat where the young Frenchman destroyed a fast little lefts for two solid 7+ numbers.
“Waves were super fun and the water is warm it’s so nice out there,” Dupouy said. “It’s my first time here and it’s a beautiful volcanic island. With only the Top 40 here, each heat is that much harder so I’m happy to make that one and look forward to the next. I’ve trained a lot in Indo lately so I hope I can finish the year with a big result.”
In the Portuguese crew it was Afonso Antunes (PRT), the current No. 5 in Europe, who looked most comfortable in Azorean waters as he advanced easily out of Heat 5.
“I’m stoked I got a 7 on a right and tried airs on the lefts even if I couldn’t land my shove-it,” Antunes said. “I’m going to keep the same strategy going forward. I’ve been here for a week already, having fun with my friends and surfing great waves. I’m here to have fun but I’d love to win my first event here for sure.”
Before sunset, the day wrapped with the first four heats of the women’s opening round as well. Rankings leader Mafalda Lopes (PRT) lead the charge with a strong display on the fast-closing lefts as she surfed to a 14.10 total to make her way into Round 2. With a win, a runner-up and two equal 5th this season, the Portuguese is a clear favorite in the women’s junior title race but anything could happen this week.
“It feels good to start the competition this way for sure,” Lopes said. “I’m super confident coming into this week, I really want to win the event and the title in my last season as a junior. That doesn’t feel like extra pressure to me but just pure motivation.”
Competitors will be back at 8 a.m for the remaining heats of women’s Round 1 and men will come at 9 a.m for a potential start of Round 3.