The O’Neill Highland Open by Swatch got underway yesterday at Brims Ness, the most consistent point for swell on the north shore of Scotland.

Clean 3ft waves and an offshore wind saw The Bowl at Brims produce some reeling barrels for round one of the first ASP World Qualifying Series 6-Star Prime rated event of the year in Europe.

Blake Thornton (AUS) gave the standout performance of the day. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, he adapted quickly to the cold climes, posting an impressive 16.44 heat score (out of a possible 20). “I’ve been coming here for two years now and I know how good the waves can get,” Thornton said. “I love slabby waves. We get a lot of them around Sydney so I’m pretty comfortable out there at Brims. I just have to get used to the thick wetsuit. I am stoked it worked out well,” he said. “I just hope I have not peaked too soon.”

Hank Gaskell (HAW), who surfed in Heat 4, posted the second highest heat total of the day with a solid 16.17 points (out of a possible 20), including a score of 8.50 out of a possible for 10 for finding his way out of a clean barrel. “The waves were fun today and I managed to get a few good ones,” Gaskell said. Gaskell will meet top seeded surfers Tim Boal (FRA) and Eric Rebiere (FRA) in the next round.

Mark Cameron (SCO) – the sole Scottish competitor in the Highland Open - was in the first heat of the day. Although the Scottish Championship winner and wildcard entry failed to get through his heat, he was happy with his performance. “I almost pulled out of one barrel,” said Cameron, better known as Scratch. “I had a few good waves so I’m happy. The only thing I’m a bit annoyed about is that I put a few cracks and dings in my board and cut my hand up on the reef.”

Seven heats were contested in a four hour period. The contest was called on at 10am by contest director Matt Wilson. “We had some good scores in the 8 plus range,” Wilson said. “This indicated that we made the right decision to run the competition today. I said at the start of the contest if we got four hours it would be a good day, and we did.”

The next call will be made today at 6.30am