GRANDE PLAGE, Lacanau – France (Monday, August 12, 2013) – The Airwalk Lacanau Pro Junior was completed today in 2-3Ft surf at Grande Plage, with Natxo Gonzalez (EUK) and Johanne Defay (FRA) taking top honors on the main podium stage. Competition recommenced in the morning with the men’s Quarterfinals and ran all the way to the finals of both the men and women’s divisions.
The surprise came from 17 year-old Basque surfer Natxo Gonzalez (EUK), winner of the Airwalk Lacanau Pro Junior, whose previous best result was a fourth place in Sopelana two years ago. The young rider powered his way in to the final ahead of more experienced European and International competitors and stole the show in the opening minutes of the heat with a wave scored 7.17 to take the lead and keep it until the final horn sounded.
“It’s amazing, I got that 7 early on and the ocean turned flat and I kept hoping for it to stay that way,” Gonzalez stated. “I can’t believe I’ve just won! I’ve been injured for awhile, my knee and my foot lately have been giving me trouble, but I’ve worked hard to get back to good form and I’m stoked to win here today!”
An established big-wave rider and winner of the recent Punta Galea Challenge in heavy conditions, Gonzalez proves today that he has the technical repertoire it takes to win an ASP Junior event against the very best European athletes and will try to keep his momentum going into the main event, starting tomorrow in Lacanau.
“It took me awhile to get my confidence level back up after those injuries, but here I was super motivated and I’m happy it paid off.” Gonzalez confirmed. “I love surfing big waves and competitions and I think the two just blend perfectly together and help me improve on many different levels.”
Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) 18, came a close second to Gonzalez in the final and seems to have found his best form back in Lacanau. Fighting an injury as well for the past few weeks, Ribeiro was always one to watch and proves today he’s back and means business.
“It feels good! It was a hard final, Natxo got all the good ones but I’m feeling great and happy for him, he’s a good friend. I’m back to 100% and super stoked, I have a good board so I’ll keep doing my thing and see how it goes in the 5-Star.”
Climbing back to the fifth rank on the European rankings, Ribeiro knows all too well the importance of the last two events that will offer many more points and potentially decide this year’s regional champions.
“The last two events are a 3-Star in Canary and 2-Star in Galicia so I’ll be concentrating on those and try to do great in both events. But right now I have to focus on the main event, I just want to surf my best and hopefully I can do good again. Hopefully we get better conditions this week. It will definitely be a lot harder with all those international guys but it’s good, very motivating.”
Brazil’s Lucas Silveira and Australia’s Soli Bailey place respectively 3rd and 4th in the Airwalk Lacanau Pro Junior and can count on their experience this week to approach the upcoming Soöruz Lacanau Pro with a little more serenity.
Johanne Defay (FRA) 19, continued her dominating streak today to claim her third Pro Junior win this season and solidify her lead on the European rankings. Despite conditions deteriorating with a dying, wind affected swell when the final heat came, Defay managed to find a couple waves with enough scoring potential to keep her opponents at a distance and take the win.
“I’m super happy! It was a tough one that final with a strong wind and an unclear lineup,” Defay said. “But we’re all in the same boat and we had to take many waves to find out which were the best. I knew the lefts were going to be better with the strong North wind, the right was shutting down quickly.”
Defay was locked in second position needing an average score when she started on a good lefthander. The Reunion Island surfer hit the lip twice on her backhand with the perfect timing to throw spray and impress the 5-man panel of judges, who rewarded the effort with an excellent 8.33 out of 10. She then kept building momentum and scored another strong wave of 7.33 to leave Bulard looking for a 9+ score.
“My season’s going great so far, the previous years I was always in the final but could never win one! Here in Lacanau is pretty special too, I think I’ve tried every place on the podium but never the first before. I hope I can keep my momentum going into the next event in Hossegor both Pro Junior and 6-Star. I want to thank my family for the great support and Hive and Creatures who’ve been helping me out too.”
Cannelle Bulard (REU) 19, reigning European Junior Champion, places runner-up in Lacanau today staying close to Defay in the 2013 title race. With the the upcoming events offering more points and prizemoney, there is a big potential for a shakeup on the current rankings.
“I had two average scores early in the heat and I was leading but time just wasn’t running quick enough,” Bulard said. “I was paddling back out when I saw Johanne start on a great left and I knew she was going to score high. I’m starting to get annoyed with that second place and I really want to win another event so we’ll see in the next one!”
Bulard, in her last season amongst the top European competitors, will head to face new challenges come September, putting her professional surfing career aside to start her physiotherapist studies abroad.
Carina Duarte (PRT) 19, finished third today, netting her best result so far this year to climb up to the fourth position on the rankings. Kim Veteau (GLP) 15, completed the podium of the Airwalk Lacanau Pro Junior with a very encouraging fourth place.
Organizers and surfers will reconvene tomorrow for the first day of the Soöruz Lacanau Pro and have a 7:30AM Call to decide of the day’s schedule.
The 2013 Airwalk Lacanau Pro Junior is scheduled from August 9-12, 2013 at Grande Plage, Lacanau – France. For all results, photos, video highlights, press releases and LIVE webcast, log on to aspeurope.com.