The 2007 Rip Curl Pro Super Series – the year’s most important World Qualifying Series (WQS) event - got underway today on the south west coast of France, in the world famous surf town of Seignosse. It wasn’t a typical sunny summer day in Europe though, instead competitors were met with stormy conditions and wild 5-6ft (2m) surf.

Despite the testing conditions, Round 1 of the event kicked off yesterday with Heat 1 featuring Andre Silva (BRA), Shaun Gossmann (AUS), Nathan Carroll (HAW) and former three-time ASP World Champion Tom Curren (USA). Gossmann started the heat strong, posting a solid 5.33-point ride on his first wave. He was quickly knocked to second though when Silva posted a 7.17 on his second wave and a 5.63-point ride on his fourth.

The Australian held second for the remainder of the heat, the top two advancing through to Round 2, with Curren and Carroll eliminated in third and fourth respectively.

The day’s top scoring competitors were Adam Melling (AUS) and Adam Robertson (AUS) in heats 2 and 3 respectively. Melling posted a two-wave combined total of 15.33 points on the way to his victory over Rhys Bombaci (AUS), Jarrad Sullivan (AUS) and Austin Ware (USA), while Robertson’s 15.00 heat score won him the heat over Kyle Garson (AUS), Brett Simpson (USA) and Charles Martin (GLP).

ASP Europe Junior Ratings leader Romain Cloitre (REU) earned a spot in the Rip Curl Pro Super Series thanks to his emphatic win of the Rip Curl Pro Junior 3 star event held here on Saturday. The 18-year-old paddled out in Heat 5 of the morning, matching up against more experienced surfers Tanner Gudauskas (USA), Leigh Sedley (AUS) and former ASP Junior World Champion Kekoa Becalso (HAW).

With no pressure to chase WQS ratings points, the 18-year-old focused on surfing a good heat and posted a 10.33-point two wave combined heat score, which was good enough to place him second behind Sedley. The two of them advance to Round 2, while Bacalso and Gudauskas are eliminated from the contest.

“The currents are so strong and the conditions were really demanding, so it was a hard heat," explained Cloitre. “As soon as you get out there you’re just thrown away south of the contest site and have to run back along the beach to paddle back out. It’s hard work."

Asked about his next focus after dominating this year ASP Europe Pro Junior Series: “I’ve had the best time of my life. The victory in the Rip Curl Pro Junior here means a lot, because it’s the biggest event of the season for me. From now, I’ll just keep going on the WQS and try to get more and more seed points for next year’s WQS season."

Today’s best wave score goes to German surfer Marlon Lipke, who posted a near-perfect 9.33-point ride in Heat 4 this morning. Paddling into a solid 6ft (2m) lefthander, Lipke performed critical turn after critical turn, punishing the wave all the way through to the shorebreak.

“We’ve got tricky conditions today and it’s kind of a gamble for everyone out there," said Lipke who later added a 4.00-point tide to confirm his first place in the heat. “I’m stoked to get the 9-pointer and I hope to keep the scores coming."

With only 144 surfers entering the event due to the unique format of the Super Series, some of surfing’s big names have already hit the water for this first taste of competition action. Former Foster’s ASP World Tour surfer Eric Rebière (FRA) advanced through Heat 15 of the day, behind fellow European surfer Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY). After his equal ninth finish in the Lacanau WQS yesterday, Gonzalez was confident of a good result.

“It’s big and messy, but there are definitely some waves to make it," said Gonzalez. “I knew there was going to be some hard paddling, so I tried my best to stick to the right place and it paid off eventually, thanks to the 7.17 I had at the start of the heat."

Another former Foster’s ASP World Tour member advancing through today’s Round 1 heats was powerful UK surfer Russell Winter (GBR), who managed to hold on to second place behind Japanese competitor Izuki Tanaka in Heat 11.

All competitors in Heats 19 to 24 of Round 1 will be onsite this morning to meet with contest officials and survey the pending conditions. The forecast is suggesting strong onshore winds again and the swell is expected to increase slightly overnight.

The Rip Curl Pro Super Series (WQS) is the year's most important WQS event, serving up more ratings points and more money than any other on the calendar. The dates this year are August 20 to 26, with 144 of the world's best surfers here to win big.

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