Rip Curl Pro Zarautz Kicks Off in Excellent Conditions, Top Seeds to Surf Tomorrow

ZARAUTZ, Basque Country (Wednesday, September 10, 2008) - The Rip Curl Pro Zarautz, an Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) 5-Star event, got underway in excellent waves today in the Basque Country with some clean two to three foot (0.5 to 1 meter) waves giving Round 1 competitors a great start to the last of six major ASP WQS events in a row.

It was a 24-heat marathon day for the kick-off after a day-off due to flat conditions and all competitors were hungry for some high performance battles.

Pedro Henrique (BRA) was first to set the pace destroying the long righthanders to finish with an 18.27 point heat tally (out of a possible 20) ahead of Joao Guedes (PRT).

Fellow Brazilian Leonardo Neves (BRA), current No. 28 on the ASP World Tour, surfed in Heat 7 today and lost no time to get the dust off his board after spending days trying to arrange his visa issues to attend the Dream Tour event in California. Neves came up with an 18.10 point heat result (out of a possible 20) to secure his spot in Round 2.

"I was really stoked to surf these conditions this morning," Neves said. "I come here often as my girlfriend lives here and I feel at home when I paddle out. I was feeling well and very motivated to get through and I found some good waves."

Neves, who spent August surfing in all WQS events, was still disappointed not to be in California with the ASP Top 45 but will try and secure a big result.

"It is really sad I could not go to California because I need points on the ASP World Tour," Neves said. "But things happen and you have to deal with it, so I will focus on this event now and hope for something good. I am really happy to be competing in Zarautz."

Usual European top campaigners were in good form as well and Tahitian Hira Teriinatoofa (PYF) led the crew with power surfing and vertical moves, posting an excellent 17.60 tally (out of a possible 20) to secure a ticket for the best seeded surfers' round.

"It was kind of tricky because with four guys on a small peak it is always a struggle," Teriinatoofa said. "You definitely have to hassle a little to get the better waves. It seems like the swell will pick up so I hope I can make it through until it gets bigger because i usually surf well in solid conditions."

"I had a bit of pressure because you always want to do good when the waves are so clean," Teriinatoofa said. "I have been training mentally as well recently and I felt good out there. Really stoked to get such big scores."

Teriinatoofa, who pulled out of the tour a couple of years, has made his intentions clear and will be back full time on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) next year.

Medi Veminardi (REU), a wildcard in the event, and Pablo Gutierrez (ESP), respectively ASP European Junior No. 2 and former ASP European No. 2, pleased their sponsor getting through their respective Round 1 battles with some promissing performances.

Gutierrez, a former full time touring ASP WQS campaigner who won Stop No. 4 of the ASP WQS European Series in July in Portugal, ended up winning with a 14.60 point total and will surf against Adam Melling (AUS) in Heat 21 tomorrow.

"We had the option to surf the lefthander for our heat so it was really better," Gutierrez said. "With the tide going out, the sets were not that good but the other waves were reforming at the inside and I am pretty happy to win that one."

Gutierrez, a renowned Spanish surfer, looked confident and solid on his feet during the 25-minute decider.

"I spent the whole day waiting for my heat and I was a bit under pressure," Gutierrez said. "I feel at home here because I know lots of people and I hope I can do good tomorrow again. We will see how conditions change because I am afraid it closes out a lot i it gets too big."

Former ASP Top 45 member Russell Winter (GBR), ASP World Junior No. 2 Tonino benson (HAW), locals Txaber Trojaola (EUK) and Asier Munian (EUK) were among those advancing today and will have chance against current ASP WQS leaders when Round 2 commences tomorrow Thursday at 8 AM.

The Rip Curl Pro Zarautz is webcast LIVE at and