Following a cutthroat day of competition at the Taiwan Open World Longboard Championships, the Women's field has been narrowed to only 4 competitors in the Semifinals. Competitors were treated to clean 2-to-3 foot peeling peaks on the fourth straight day of competition at Jinzun Harbour in Taitung County.
Reigning Women's World Longboard Champion Honolua Blomfield continued her searing form in Taiwan, overcoming fellow Hawaiian Crystal Walsh in a bittersweet matchup. Blomfield looks destined for Finals Day, posting another Round high heat total, a 14.66 (out of a possible 20) to overcome the veteran Championship competitor.
"Crystal is someone I've looked up to my whole competitive career," Blomfield said. "We are both from Oahu and surf a lot together when she is on the North Shore. I have watched her come close so many times so it's hard to come up against her in a big heat like that. It's crazy as well because I surfed against her in the Quarterfinal last year and then met Rachael (Tilly) in the Semifinal so it's identical this year which is weird. It's really fun out there though -- a little small but kind of perfect at the same time."
16-year-old Malibu resident Soleil Errico has been the breakthrough competitor of the 2018 World Longboard Championships (WLC), booking herself a spot in the Semifinals in only her second WLC appearance. Errico hit her straps in Quarterfinal 3 as she posted the equal highest single wave score of the event so far, an 8.83 (out of a possible 10) for an impressive combination of rail carves and long nose rides.
"It feels so good to be into the Semifinals," Errico said. "I came here with pretty low expectations as last year I didn't win a heat so I just wanted to get some experience so it's great to still be going. The big score is definitely a confidence booster -- it feels good to know I'm capable of that kind of surfing. I love surfing with and competing against all of the best women in the world. People like Lindsay (Steinreide) are my favourite surfers so it's an honour to be here and learn from them all."
2015 Women's World Longboard Champion Rachael Tilly was the first competitor to book herself a spot into the Semifinals after a taking out Quarterfinal 1 over French competitor and close friend Alice Lemoigne. The Californian native has been keeping busy in Taiwan, finishing university assignments in between campaigning for a second world title. Tilly will have to keep the balance going when she comes up against Honolua Blomfield in Semifinal 1.
"I've been working on a major assignment for my sports management degree when I'm not surfing so that's been keeping me super busy," Tilly said. "It's so great to be competing here in Taiwan -- it's my third time here and it seems to get better every time, catching up with old friends and always getting fun waves. Alice beat me in the first round so I knew that would be a tough heat. We are great friends and always seem to get paired up which is a shame. I think now there is a chance of an all Californian Final which would be cool -- I definitely want to make the Final."
In the Quarterfinal 4, it was a battle of two former World Longboard Champions as Lindsay Steinriede took on fellow Californian Tory Gilkerson to decide the final Semifinalist. Steinriede struggled to find a rhythm in the shifting peaks while the 2016 Champion Gilkerson was consistent on the small selection of waves she took to take the win and progress into Semifinal 2, where she'll meet fellow Californian Soleil Errico (USA), meaning there is a guarantee of at least one Californian in the Final, and possibly two.
"The waves have been really fun today," Gilkerson said. "Although there are still waves and we only have three heats left, I think the decision to stop is a good one as it seems to be slowing down a little. We have 3 days to finish so now we can try and pick the most optimum conditions. Now it's just time to focus on the last day of surfing."
Event directors will reconvene at Jinzun Harbour tomorrow morning to make a call on competition for a likely 6:30 am local time start.