Trialists Vie for Wildcards at Oxbow Pro
It was an epic morning of surfing at les Cavaliers, Anglet, France as the challenge to find the four wildcards that will compete in the main event of the Oxbow Pro World Longboard Championship started in earnest. The winner of the main event will be crowned as the Association of Surfing Professionals' (ASP) world longboard champion.
Yet with only four spots available and 48 trialists entered, competition was always going to be fierce. Luckily with an outgoing tide, conditions went from excellent to epic throughout the heats of round 1, with six-foot faces being brushed by a light offshore breeze.
The first heat of the day saw young South African surfer Kwezi Qika hit the water. The 18-year-old from Cape Town has probably sacrificed more than most to make the event. “There has been times when I have not eaten at night, just to save extra money so I could come here, said Qika. “I also had to ask my Mum for a loan, so it’s been really hard. My goal is just to get through my first heat."
Despite having to hitchhike to the event from neighboring Biarritz leaving the backpackers where he is staying at 5.30am, Qika realized his goal and progressed through his first heat, along with Brazilian Robledo de Oliveira. Unfortunately though his good fortune didn't hold and he was eliminated in the second round. Qika’s traveling partner, Durban’s Lyle Greer, was also unlucky breaking his board in Heat 11.
“I sold my car to come to this event and I had such high hopes and now I’ve broken my board," lamented the South African. “Plus I lost in my first heat and now I have to go home."
His travels home were in stark contrast to those of local standout Damien Castera (FRA) who lives within walking distance of the competition break. Despite some nerves, but with friends and family cheering him on, Castera scored one of the highest heat scores of the day, a 15.00 out of a possible 20.00, to convincingly win his heat.
“My legs were shaking as I’m always pretty nervous in competitions,’" said Castera. “But I managed that long wave and am very happy. There are only four spots available, and there are so many good surfers, but I will aim to do my best and make the main event."
Edouard Delpero (FRA), another local young talent, will join Castera in the second round. Delpero, an alternate on the trials list, was taken out of class at his nearby high school by his father this morning when a late cancellation meant he earned an event berth at short notice.
It didn’t seem to faze the 16-year-old, who finished second behind Harrison Roach, the Australian scoring a day high 16.25 out of 20. Compatriot Jackson Close, who also surfed with a mix of modern radical moves and traditional style scored a two-wave total of 16.25 and was the only surfer to match this score.
Unfortunately a storm carrying strong onshore winds and rain meant that competition was abandoned after Heat 2 of the Round of 68. Conditions are set to improve tomorrow with organizers hoping to finish the trials event and push on to start the main event of the Oxbow Pro World Longboard Championship. For more information go www.oxboworld.com