A massive day of competition unfolded on the shores of Tupira and the Kumul PNG World Longboard Championships lost both World No. 1 and No. 2 in dramatic fashion.
Reigning World Champion Phil Rajzman fell victim to a herendous fall in yesterday's freesurf that resulted in a serious head injury, and partially torn bicep. But, the gentle giant pushed on and earned a heroic Round Three victory before a big Round Four matchup with an in-form Antoine Delpero and 2x World Champion Harey Ingleby.
Delpero was in total control of his nerves after four WLC World Titles, with Rajzman and Ingleby sitting alongside him. The Frenchman found his form once again and posted an 8.33 right away that earned him safe passage into the Quarterfinals where another 2x World Champion awaits him -- Piccolo Clemente.
"I was really nervous going into that heat with two World Champions out in the lineup knowing how good they are and it went a little slow during our heat so I was lucky to get a good one at the beginning," Delpero said. "The waves are still pumping and it's just an incredible set up here with all the locals supporting us, it makes for a great atmosphere. It's been a little different over the last few days with conditions, but I'm not changing my surfing. I'm just doing what I feel."
Edouard Delpero picked up where his brother left off in the next heat and eliminated 2016 WLC runner-up Steven Sawyer as dark horse Cole Robbins earned second-place in the heat. Delpero looked unstoppable once again today with two more heat wins after a big opening Round One victory earlier this week.
"I was just enjoying myself in the water, it's just a perfect righthand pointbreak," Delpero said. "That was a great heat and I'm having a great time just being able to express my surfing the way I can. Paddling out into my heat I saw Antoine [Delpero] get that win and it gave me a lot of motivation to do the same thing. We've had some amazing experiences together and even had a few Finals in the past."
And the two could find themselves in yet another Final being on opposite sides of the draw.
Kai Sallas showcased his dominance in a critical Round Four matchup and posted two near-perfect scores of 9.00 and 9.33 -- matching his 18.33 from yesterday. The Hawaiian looked comfortable in the lineup with poise and style to overpower event standout Rodrigo Sphaier and 2x World Champion Clemente.
"I think I'm super familiar with this wave as it relates to a lot of breaks back home in Hawaii," Sallas said. "There's a lot of reefbreaks like this so I just feel at home. It'll make a big difference [being on a righthander] and a lot of competitors coming out on top are the regular footers who have been dying to surf a right in the last five years. Today we're surfing a shoulder-to-head high, most rip-able wave and the other morning we were getting barreled every wave. It's quite incredible."
Taylor Jensen ripped once more to begin his day in Round Three over 15-year-old Kaniela Stewart with the event's highest single-wave score of 9.77. Jensen then continued that dominance into Round Four with yet another heat win. The American-Australian transplant posted two more excellent scores against the in-form British competitor Adam Griffiths and fellow American Tony Silvagni to earn his spot into the Quarterfinals.
"That onshore wind was kind of fun, it let you in early for a quick noseride and gave a little extra push to turn off of -- it's just really nice to have a powerful wave on our Tour," Jensen said. "China's a softer wave on my backhand in my opinion so this is great to have something to lay into. It's life-altering getting this right since I don't go left too much. With Taiwan later in the year, a Quarterfinal pretty much keeps you in the race so this is a great result and anything after is a bonus."
Tune in live at 7:00 a.m. AEDT to witness Quarterfinal action from either the men or women