The Jeep World Longboard Championship hosted by Wanning got underway in improving 3-foot conditions at beautiful Riyue Bay. Event organizers were able to complete the first round of both men's and women's competition, setting up sudden death Round 2 action.
Reigning Women's World longboard Champion Chelsea Williams (AUS) surfed strong in her Round 1 heat posting the second highest heat score of the round, a 15.30. Williams looked dominant but felt she had more to offer when the heat ended.
"I got lucky then," Williams said. "I feel I could have surfed better so I'm lucky to get through. Skipping to Round 3 is always good but the surf is fun so getting extra surf in Round 2 also would have been fine."
Chloe Calmon (BRA) looked unstoppable in Heat 3 of Round 1. The Brazilian posted a near-perfect 9.57 (out of a possible 10) and an excellent 8.67 for the highest two-wave heat total of the round, a 18.24 (out of a possible 20). Calmon's display of nose-riding and stylish carves poses her as one of the competitors to watch at this year's championship.
"I was really nervous before that heat," Calmon said. "As soon as I got my first good wave the pressure dropped and I could just enjoy getting waves and surfing. This is our only event for the championship so it's really important for us. I'm stoked to go straight through to Round 3. All the girls are ripping so it's going to be tough to make heats."
Heat 7 of women's Round 1 was one of the most exciting of the day, coming down to the final seconds of the heat. After trailing for the entire heat, Rachael Tilly (USA), needing a 6.00, took off on a wave with only 20 seconds left and performed a number of hang tens and smooth turns all the way to the shoreline, earning a 6.67 to progress through to Round 3 and forcing Alice Lemoigne (REU) and Shiho Okazawa (JPN) into sudden death Round 2.
"I knew I could get the score if I found the wave," Tilly said. "That heat was pretty slow for waves and I had third priority so I was lucky to sneak that one in and it went all the way to the beach, which not many were doing. It was kind of stressful waiting on the beach at the end but when I got the score and the crowd cheered it felt so good."
Heat 1 of men's Round 1 set the tone for the afternoon with a fiery battle between Ben Skinner (GBR), Steven Sawyer (ZAF) and Jefson Silva (BRA) with the lead changing a number of times throughout the heat, Silva snagged a set wave in the final minute to post a near-perfect 9.70 and win the heat.
"Once I finished that wave I knew it was going to be the score I needed," Silva said. "This is my first time in this event so I have been training super hard. It seems to have worked so far. I want to keep going as far as I can."
Two-time World Longboard champion Taylor Jensen (USA) showed off his backhand precision and power going vertical on a number of sections to score a near-perfect 9.50. The American didn't show any signs that he has been ill for the last few days.
"My family and I have been really sick so I haven't been leaving my room," Jensen said. "I haven't missed out on much. This has been the first day of waves so I don't feel like it has affected my preparation too much. I'm just glad there is waves for everyone."
Antoine Delpero (FRA) was one of the standouts of Day 1, leading from the opening few minutes of his heat. Delpero posted two excellent scores for a heat total of 17.50 and progresses directly to Round 3.
"I had fun out there," Delpero said. "It wasn't the perfect conditions that I've had here in the past but it was consistent which is good. I managed to find a few double-ups around the place and do want I wanted to do."
Last year's winner and reigning two-time World Longboard champion Harley Ingleby (AUS) continued his love affair with Riyue Bay on Day 1 posting a crucial opening round win. Although not a blistering heat, Ingleby was happy to get in the water and make it through to Round 3.
"It's great considering the last few days," Ingleby said. "It is still a bit weak as it's a wind swell but it's enough for everyone to get some long rides so we're stoked. Coming in as world champ doesn't change much for me, everyone has an equal chance at winning it."
Heat 8 was a high scoring affair, with Kai Sallas (HAW) posting two scores in the nine-point range for a heat total of 18.20. The Hawaiian put on an impressive display of traditional longboard surfing to advance into Round 3.
"It's taken a while to adapt to the new criteria," Sallas said. "Now everyone understands it, it's good because now we surf how longboards should be surfed. When I surf a heat I always aim to post two excellent scores and today I did that so I'm stoked."
In the final heat of the day, former longboard world champion Piccolo Clemente (PER) posted the first 10-point ride of the event. He then backed it up with a near-perfect 9.83, earning the highest heat total of the event so far, a 19.83.
"The waves are better now with the change in wind," Clemente said. "I was lucky to get a couple of nice long ones. I'm stoked to have the highest heat total of the day."
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