History was made at the first-ever professional surfing event held on Papua New Guinea soil as Taylor Jensen and Chloe Calmon were crowned the inaugural Kumul PNG World Longboard Champions. The groundbreaking event came to a close when the final horn sounded and Jensen came out with his third World Longboard Championships chair-up. But, it was Calmon who earned her long-awaited breakthrough win on the WLC stage and raw emotion followed.
The biggest crowd of the event so far arrived en masse, some walking through the night to arrive just in time for the day's action.
"This is crazy, I've never experienced anything like that and to get a win here with all my friends around me makes it that much more special," Jensen said. "This has been an amazing experience from start to finish and today was unlike anything I've ever seen -- it's almost enough to leave someone speechless. I was a little worried coming here, but witnessing it in person was just proof you can't believe everything you hear. The people here are amazing and this is something I'll never forget."
Jensen clashed with fellow event standout Kai Sallas in an incredible Final that demanded their best efforts. Sallas jumped to an early lead en route to his first WLC win, but Jensen's patience paid off and earned an 8.93 to put himself back in the heat. Sallas wasn't done yet and displayed his phenomenal hang-ten capability to earn an 8.37.
In the dying minutes, Jensen was granted a Tupira gem and unleashed with his signature power turns after impressive footwork to get started. The score came through at 9.53 and left Sallas needing a near-perfect score with less than a minute on the clock. Now Jensen has given himself a nudge toward his third World Title with a massive win here.
"I just knew I needed to find the best set wave I could, that was my plan the whole time -- that's how it was all day," Jensen said. "Luckily that last wave came through and I was able to be in first priority to get it, and just did my best to perform on it. Now it's time to enjoy this moment and then I'll get ready for Taiwan. I've put myself in the best position possible for a third World Title and that would be an incredible honor."
While Sallas earned yet another runner-up in a WLC event, his outlook remained strong with the new multi-event series. The 35-year-old Hawaiian was easily the man to beat alongside Jensen after taking out giant-killer Antoine Delpero in the Semifinals and is prepared for the year ahead.
"I went into that Final with the idea to keep doing what I have been and focus on my surfing" Sallas said. "I've been doing contests for a long time now and when you get to finals day you're pretty mentally drained so I knew I just had to go out there and surf. That was one of the coolest crowds I've ever seen just standing shoulder-to-shoulder and heard they walked hours to get here -- it was pretty incredible. This is a great result and now I'll look to do one better when we get back to it."
Other notable standout Adam Griffiths fell to Jensen in the Semifinals, but has claimed his stake in the World Title race with a great result.
Just before Jensen's massive performance, Calmon showed pure emotion when the final horn sounded after earning her first WLC win in front of the massive crowd and was in disbelief.
"I've always dreamed about winning an event, but this is completely different from anything I've ever thought it would be like," Calmon said. "This was the first contest where I put aside my competitiveness and just went to have fun, so it was great to find that balance finally. Since the first heat I was so amazed by the energy of this place and just so happy about myself. I'm so thankful to be here in this amazing place with these great people and if I had gotten 1st or 2nd I would've been happy no matter what."
The 2016 WLC runner-up had to deal with an in-form 2015 WLC runner-up Crystal Walsh in an intense Final. The runner-up curse looked to follow Calmon into this event as she came short of the required score on two occasions -- the Brazilian earned an 8.57 instead of the needed 8.60 before falling just shy again by .04.
However, Calmon's last score of 7.20 in the dying minutes was the lead change she needed and topped Walsh by just .41.
"It was incredible to see so many people cheering for me with my friends all there to support me through that Final," Calmon said. "Crystal was surfing amazingly and I knew it would take all I had to beat her after surfing against Honolua [Blomfield] in that last Semifinal. This is such a big win for me and to do it like that was such a good feeling and know I'm capable of performing when I need to."
Walsh may leave PNG with a runner-up spot, but has put herself in the best position behind Calmon as a World Title contender. The Hawaiian posted the women's biggest single-wave score with a near-perfect 9.50 in her Semifinal matchup against dark horse Kaitlin Maguire. This is experience went beyond wearing a jersey to Walsh and witnessed the beauty that PNG has to offer.
"Winning this event would have been better, but I'm not too worried with another event this year," Walsh said. "This wave is so dreamy and perfect, it was great to have a longboard event here and really show that we can charge -- especially the locals, Ruthy [Kurumuk] was just going for it on the big days. I'm really excited and just super afraid of waking up and this being all a dream. The push for women's equality here and awareness of violence on women that's now being recognized is just incredible."