SOPELANA, Euskadi (Wednesday, July 29, 2009) – The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) Grade-1 Sopelana Pro Junior kicked off today in the Basque Country in good and consistent four to five foot (1.2 to 1.5 meter) waves, no less than twenty-four heats being completed on Day 1 of competition. With the beautiful scenery surrounding the event site at Sopelana’s main beach, the ASP European Junior caravan could settle for another four consecutive days of action where both male and female competitors will be chasing valuable regional ratings’ points.

With several of the current ratings’ top seeds having made late entries into the coveted event that welcomes an impressive field of 150 competitors, the first day of competition brought another exciting show to the beach with current unstoppable Brazilian surfer Thomaz Petterson (Santa Catarina, BRA), 20, repeating his prowess to claim the day’s highest heat score with 14.67 points (out of a possible 20).

Petterson, who has led the ASP European Junior summer since the beginning of July with two consecutive event wins respectively at Cordoama in Portugal and San Sebastian in the Basque Country last Sunday, used his solid confidence to show the ASP Judging panel he was one to be counted with towards the finals of the event. Being in his last year as a Junior surfer, Petterson has been rocketed to the headlines of regional under-21 surfing since he set foot on the European soil and will be, once again, a serious threat to any of the regional top athletes.

“Things have been going great for me so far and I couldn’t hope for more before flying to Europe," Petterson said. “Two wins in two events is already amazing so I will be using the same relaxed approach and hope for another good result here in Sopelana."

While Brazil’s Petterson was setting pace for his Sopelana Pro Junior start, fellow favorites including Reunion Island born surfer Adrien Toyon (REU), 18, and French-Kiwi representative Paco Divers (FRA), 20, respectively posted the day’s third and second highest heat results. Toyon, considered a favorite at any event he attends, came up with strong surfing to open his Sopelana campaign with a promising performance.

“I am pretty happy to start the event with a good result and advance," Toyon said. “You never want to fail in the first heat in an event and to get it out of the way is a relief. I felt good today and managed to find the better waves which helped me score well enough to advance. It is good for my confidence towards the next rounds."

Toyon, who missed the ASP World Junior Championships (WJC) qualification by one spot only last year finishing No. 7 on the ASP European Junior ratings, got back to competition last week at San Sebastian and will be looking to sharpen his heat tactics and put his act together in the upcoming days.

“The Sopelana Pro Junior is a good event but a Grade-1 event though," Toyon said. “I take it more as a warm-up contest to make sure I have the feeling right and get enough confidence before going into August and the last three crucial events at Lacanau, Hossegor and Tenerife. But I am still hungry for a good run here and a bit of prizemoney would be even better!"

The long-running day of competition has taken the event halfway through its third round and all favorites are expected to get their start in the ASP Grade-1 rated contest tomorrow. With another good swell expected to settle in the right direction for the three remaining days of the waiting period, the summer Basque crowds will be cheering their local representatives when they paddle out tomorrow, Basque leader Jatyr Berasaluce (Sopelana, EUK), 20, looking to improve his current ratings’ No. 4 spot by the end of the event.

Berasaluce, who placed second in the Sopelana Pro Junior in 2008, and just got another runner-up finish at San Sebastian behind Petterson last week, is hungrier than ever for a win and will use the knowledge of his home break as much as he can to oust regional leaders including defending champion Medi Veminardi (REU), 18, who will be much expected for his starter tomorrow.

Visit www.aspeurope.com for results, photos and news of the ASP Grade-1 Sopelana Pro Junior