Hank Gaskell

With a building swell, and a huge crowd that was even bigger than yesterday, the pressure to perform was ratcheted up a notch today at the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games fueled by Monster Energy.

South Africa, which looked dominant 24 hours ago, struggled to stay in the top echelon. Australia, the reigning champs had only one win with several team members sent to the repercharge heats. France, who shared a perfect record of all six heat wins yesterday with the Americans, had to step up their game to continue their run at the title. While still maintaining a formidable record of 4 wins and a 2nd today, French ASP contender Mickey Picon was sent to the repercharge and Jeremy Flores was pushed into a 2nd place result by red hot local Costa Rican Jason Torres. Flores squeaked through to advance on a last minute deep tube ride that was as lucky as it was amazing.

Hawaii's Joel Centeio got the first legitimate barrel ride of the day early in the first heat of the morning, and Hawaii's stellar team is looking strong. But when Venezuela, Austria, Brazil, Hawaii, Argentina, New Zealand and Puerto Rico all post wins today, nobody is feeling indominatable. Even the USA, who continued their march up the ladder remaining five for six, was quiet. “We are not making any claims here,” said a subdued Ian Cairns. ‘We can celebrate if we get to the finals.”

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Carlos Muñoz

If you think Colombia, Switzerland, Ecuador, Germany and Austria aren't surfing nations, think again. On the opening day of the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games, each of these countries advanced, sometimes besting the big surfing nations in the process.

With thousands of spectators packing the thin line of fine black sand, Paul Grey from Germany won his heat against powerhouse surf nation of Brazil, Carlos Goncalves of Ecuador advanced over Tahiti and tiny landlocked Switzerland took a 2nd to move into Round Two. “We are so happy to be here,” said Tino Staheli, a Swiss team member. “The international level of surfing just keeps going up and up and up. Sometimes it is a bit intimidating!”

Ecuador, not exactly a top rated favorite in the event, had 3 major wins, taking advantage of the 3 to 4 foot changeable beachbreak waves.

"We have been training hard and I believe that was key to our wins today,” said Carlos Goncalves. Added winner Israel Barona, “I was lucky to find the best waves and do the things well in them. The competitors were good, but my wave ion was the major factor.”

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Maxime Huscenot

Justine Dupont (Lacanau, FRA), 18, and Maxime Huscenot (REU), 17, claimed the ASP Grade-1 Sopelana Pro Junior today in the Basque Country, both champions taking their first title of the year in tricky two to three foot (0.5 to 1 m) waves at Sopelana. Respectively dominating the women’s and the men’s divisions, both event winners were able to finish atop an impressive 150-surfer field including some of Europe’s best Under-21 competitors to clinch valuable ratings’ points and solid confidence for the upcoming major ASP Pro Junior events.

Maxime Huscenot, the reigning ASP European Junior champion who was returning to competition in Europe after several months off tour for school obligations, showed he was back for good and in excellent form, the Reunion Island born surfer posting the event’s highest heat result with a total of 17.16 points (out of a possible 20) including a 9.33 point ride (out of a possible 10) for the best single wave score of the week.

“I am super stoked to win in this event,” Huscenot said. “The waves got back throughout the day and I am really happy to have made the best out of it. I was confident and tried a few tricks because I was feeling pretty good and the board I have been surfing for a couple of weeks now is just amazing.”

Huscenot, who defeated local favorite Jatyr Berasaluce (Sopelana, EUK) and outsiders Lewis St John (BRB) and Frederico Morais (PRT) in the final, had confidently advanced through all his previous battles in first place and remained unstoppable in the 30-minute decider, leaving runner-up Berasaluce with a second consecutive equal finish at his home event, his second in a row after San Sebastian.

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