First stop on the European Women’s series, the ASP 6-Star Swatch Girls Pro France and 2-Star Pro Junior, started on Wednesday. With an encouraging forecast and more than 130 competitors from all over the world, the event is set to write yet another exciting page of women’s surfing history.
With only six events worldwide, hopeful qualifiers for the Elite Women’s World Championship Tour of Surfing know how important each event is with the allocated prize money and rankings points on offer. The Pro France, being the second to last stop on the ASP schedule, will play a vital role in deciding who can stay amongst the Top 17 next year and who can qualify for the coveted tour.
Organisers have opted for different event dates this year, moving from Europe’s early spring to the end of August for a better chance at scoring the perfect conditions that France’s southwest coast is renowned for worldwide. An intense five days of action and music lie ahead for the massive August crowds in and around the Hossegor area.
Competitors were greeted with a clean 3–5ft swell on Wednesday, the opening day of the event, allowing competition to start right away and complete the first five rounds of the main event, as well as the opening two heats of the Pro Junior before the high tide forced competition to a halt. Surfers enjoyed a perfect summer day in Seignosse Le Penon and scored the classic French beach breaks to launch the five-day surf and music festival.
Junior European up-and-comer Kim Veteau (GLP), 15, was a clear stand-out today netting an excellent heat total of 17.00 out of 20 to advance through two rounds of competition ahead of seasoned competitors of the Star tour. The young surfer from Guadeloupe did not let any pressure get to her and displayed her usual power and confidence in her manoeuvres.
Yesterday the Pro resumed in perfect 3–4ft surf very similar to Wednesday’s conditions before the onshore winds picked up and transformed the lineup into a bumpy, blown-out A-frame. Competition went on hold during a couple of hours as the extremely low tide didn’t provide sufficient scoring opportunities, before completing the top seeds round and starting the next, early this afternoon.
Surfers from the early heats including stand-out Courtney Conlogue (USA), 20, managed to score on the very top of the judging scale before conditions deteriorated. The Californian netted the event’s first perfect 10, for a succession of perfectly executed frontside hacks on a long peeling righthander.
Australian ASP Top 17 member Rebecca Woods had to surf through four rounds yesterday and was happy to see competition switch to the Juniors to allow her a little rest. The experienced surfer navigated through the early rounds and will join the event’s top seeds when competition recommences today. ‘I’ve been in my wetsuit all day, just grometting it up; my eyes are red but it was fun, it was good,’ said Woods. ‘I got lucky I think. I got second and nearly got knocked out ’cause they’re all surfing amazingly well and you’ve got to be on your game all the time. That’s good you know – the talent pool is large and growing.’
In her ninth year among the elite Women’s World Championship Tour surfers, Woods has seen the evolution of the sport and was impressed today by the level young surfers have reached in the past few years. ‘We used to only have the round of 16 in the events but now even in the round of 72 and up there are some tough heats, there are a lot of new girls coming through and some people with experience too – they’ve been competing since they’re four, and it’s just going to keep growing, so it’s cool!’