Mike Richards produced a near-perfect wave score of 9.50 points in men's stand 1 qualifying ©ISA/Ben Reed

Brazil’s Mike Richards and Australia’s Samantha Bloom laid down markers on the opening day of the World Para Surfing Championship as they aim to defend their crowns in California in the United States.

Richards overcame compatriot Jonathan Borda with a stunning score of 17.83 points in the men’s stand 1 category.

His day-high tally included the single highest wave score with a near-perfect 9.50 as he advanced to the next qualifying round.

"I’ve been training hard and surfing here every day," said Richards.

"I’m looking for a great result and I’m ready for the battle."

Defending champion Bloom top scored in the women’s prone 2 class with 15.5, including a highest wave score of 8.17.

Her aggressive approach won over the judges as she finished ahead of Spain’s Sarah Almagro, who notched 11.5.

Three nations saw representation on the international Para surfing circuit for the first time as surfers from Jamaica, Puerto Rico and El Salvador hit the water.

Jeremy Butts of Puerto Rico competed in the men’s stand 3 contest as he posted a score of 2.87 while Brazil’s Alcino Neto topped the standings with 12 points.

In the men’s prone 2 division, Brazil’s Davi Teixeira and veteran para surfer Jesse Billauer of the US went toe-to-toe in qualifying as they continued their rivalry.

Teixeira came out on top with a score of 16.17 as Billauer came second with 14.83.

The Brazilian is looking to reclaim the title after winning gold in 2016 but Billauer is determined to keep his crown.

Samantha Bloom started her defence of the women's prone 2 crown with a fine display ©ISA/Sean Evans
Samantha Bloom started her defence of the women's prone 2 crown with a fine display ©ISA/Sean Evans

"I know everyone’s out to get the champ, you always want to beat the champ," said Billauer.

"Last year I won, I’m just trying to defend it.

"That’s one of the hardest things to do, defend your title, because everyone’s trying to take you out.

"But hey this old man, 42, still trying to take it to them.

"So they’re going to have to beat me to take this third world title away."

Sarah Bettencourt of the US produced the best two scores in the women’s prone 1 category and Malú Mendes of Brazil moved into first place after two rounds of the women’s stand 2 competition.

Casey Proud of Hawaii holds a narrow advantage over Denmark’s Bruno Hansen in the men’s proud 1 event, while Pablo Aguiar of Brazil leads the way in the men’s stand two division.

The International Surfing Association is pushing for Para surfing to be added to the programme for the Los Angeles 2028 Paralympics.

"These amazing athletes showed today that they came to compete for gold with some outstanding performances," said ISA President Fernando Aguerre.

"There is always a strong bond between these surfers and teams, but they also showed that competition for gold will be fierce in the days to come.

"The unique spirit of Para surfing is alive and well in Pismo with the Para surfing community, showcasing the stoke and happiness that the sport can bring."

Competition is due to continue tomorrow with qualification in several categories, including visually impaired, sit and kneel.