In convincing fashion, Rachael Tilly (USA) emerged as the World Surf League (WSL) North America Longboard Championships winner at the classic beachbreak of Huntington Beach, CA. Earning the No.1 rank on the Round Robin Leaderboard at the conclusion of Day 1, Tilly continued her brilliant form and bettered former WSL Longboard Champion Lindsay Steinriede (USA) in a thrilling Final for her first WSL event win.
It was a surreal experience for the 17-year-old, claiming the event's highest single-wave score alongside Jennifer Smith with a 7.50. Also earning the two highest heat totals of the event with a 13.17 and 13.33, Tilly looked unstoppable and clinched a spot at the Jeep World Championships on Hainan Island, China next month as one of its youngest entries.
"It feels so great to win this event among these girls that I looked up to growing up," Tilly said. "Seeing Lindsay win a World Title and Jen get one, they were my idols and now to be competing with them is amazing - to actually be on par with them is an even greater feeling. I was really nervous competing against three other girls for the qualification but I felt a lot of good momentum from yesterday and tried to carry that into today."
With Steinriede, Smith, Kaitlin Maguire (USA), and Tory Gilkerson (USA) already qualified for the World Championships, it came down to Tilly needing a victory in her Quarterfinals heat against Frankie Seely (USA) - and hoping that both Soleil Errico (USA) and Emmy Lombard (USA) lost their respective heats. Sticking with the winning recipe that got her to the Final, Tilly bounced back with a 6.20 after Steinriede's quick 10.93 heat total in the opening minutes and found a 5.50 in the dying moments.
"They seemed to be scoring higher on noserides so that was my focus and trying to be super selective with the waves that would allow me some open face to do those on," Tilly said. "It took a long time throughout the heat to finally find a few but it ended up popping up and I was able to perch up on the nose so I was really satisfied. With that it lessened the ground I had to make up and in the last two minutes I caught one more wave and knew it was my last chance so it was incredible to pull through."
Former World Longboard Champion, Lindsay Steinriede (USA) exceeded her goals and was elated with the opportunity presented. Taking a breather from extensive travel and only surfing major events, the 30-year-old talent has returned with vigor and style.
"I didn't have many expectations and I was so excited to have an event like this put on for us - especially in California, and hopefully we can grow it in years to come," Steinriede said. "The last three years I haven't done many contests between the big events so it's nice to get a jersey on before heading out there. It felt good to get back on the board and surf against a clock while being able to keep my cool. That's how contests go and just have to keep my head up and look forward to competing in Taiwan and China."