The inaugural Kumul PNG World Longboard Championships, set to open up the multi-event World Longboard Tour (WLT), will be hosted in Tupira, Papua New Guinea. But, where exactly is this wave and what can the world's best longboarders expect? With the help of Sam Bleakley, we're able to present some answers in a two-part breakdown.
Tupira, nestled in Ulingan Bay, is a perfect canvas for nose-riding and rail-surfing. It's also a north swell magnet offering silky waves on a daily basis during the October to April swell season.
"Long rights on a reef break, in exquisite scenery -- Tupira looks like a very interesting wave to compete in," said 2016 WLT runner-up Chloe Calmon. "I think it will be a great opportunity for all [of us] to show the versatility of a longboard. I am pretty sure it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone."
PNG is known as one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, filled with 850 languages, ancient highland communities and abundant resources. The nation also encases 600 islands, a highly convoluted coastline and countless uncrowded reef breaks. It also has one of the most progressive surf tourism management plans on the planet.
The game-changing event was announced at the 2016 WLC in China, Hainan, through a sparkling presentation by president and co-founder of Surfing Association PNG (SAPNG), Andrew Abel.
"This will be the first international surf event held in PNG," said Abel, "and we aim to be a global model of sustainable surf tourism, with a surf resource management plan that puts the local community at the heart of the development, so revenue goes directly into the area."
The international longboarders lit up at the sight of the blue-water reelers at Tupira after years of battling for World Titles in the lefts of the South China Sea. Attention immediately shifted to board design and that all-important judging criteria: controlled maneuvers in the critical sections of the wave, utilizing the entire board and wave using traditional longboard surfing.
Shaper and former WLT No. 3, Ben Skinner, built the board that Phil Rajzman won the 2016 World Title on in Riyue Wan, China. Skinner's horizons have now shifted to PNG. "The takeoff looks fast, before some nice cutback sections and a chance at a hollow inside," noted Skinner. "Tail designs and bottom shapes will be important for hold on the nose through the opening section, and glide through to the inside. Using all of the board and all of the wave will be key."
Surfboard design will be a central theme. For thousands of years PNG locals have used broken pieces of canoe called palang (or ‘splinters') to make paipo and alaia boards. There will be an expression session on these classic craft, matching local talent against the likes of former World Champions Rachael Tilly and Harley Ingleby. There is a plentiful supply of wild balsa growing in the area, and as part of the ongoing timber surfboard project spearheaded by Nicki Wynnychuk, master shapers Tom Wegener and Bryan Bates will be holding shaping workshops.
Reigning World Champions Tory Gilkerson and Phil Rajzman will be aiming to set the reefbreak ablaze, while at least six former World Champions will be attending, including Rachael Tilly, Chelsea Williams, Lindsay Steinriede, Piccolo Clemente, Harley Ingleby and Taylor Jensen. Of course only two surfers will travel home Champions, but PNG will be the real winner thanks to hosting such a trailblazing event.
Look for Part Two to find out more about PNG, and also the Pink Nose Revolution that's been creating a stir in recent years.