The northeast monsoon swell season is underway and title contenders are arriving into Taitung to sample the lively rights and lefts at Jinzun Harbour, which forms a brilliant canvas for the full repertoire of longboard rail and tail turns, footwork and noserides.
Taiwan is situated 180km (110 miles) of the southeastern coast of China and fully exposed to a variety of swell sources. While the typhoon season runs from August to November, the northeast monsoon (November to March), although colder, delivers surprisingly consistent surf along the south and east coasts. For travelling surfers, the Taiwanese are gracious hosts, and there is a growing local scene in Yilan, Pingtung, Hualien, Kaoshiung, Taipei and Tiatung counties.
Men's tour leader Taylor Jensen is looking as sharp as ever. "I've recovered really well from a knee injury," said the 33 year old Californian, who is gunning for his third World Title. "I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, just stay in the moment, and enjoy my surfing." Taylor will let his longoarding do the talking, delivering his unique mixture of critical noseriding and radical flowing turns.
In trademark style women's tour leader Chloe Calmon has arrived early to adjust to the local culture.
"I always heard so many good things about Taiwan," said Chloe Calmon. "Everyday is a new adventure as I get to know more about this place. The wave is so fun and reminds me a lot of my home break in Rio."
A few days ago Calmon experienced that heart-stopping moment all travelling surfers hate: when you open your board bag post flight and every board has been damaged! Thankfully local shaper Josh Campbell has fixed up the dings, and the 23 year old is gearing up to perform her silky samba dance moves, and perhaps claim her first World Title.
This is the first time in six years that the WSL Longboard Champion will be decided from more than one event. With Papua New Guinea already completed anyone who made the quarter finals in PNG can win. Taylor should be feeling good. He beat Kai Sallas in the final in PNG, and last time the men had a two event tour (2011 in Sri Lanka and Italy), Taylor won his first World Title.
Taylor's wife Nava will be competing in the women's event alongside reigning World Champion Tory Gilkerson and former World Champions Rachael Tilly, Chelsea Williams and Lindsay Steinriede. Lindsay took the crown in 2011 when the two event Women's tour travelled to France and China, and with a quarter final finish in PNG, the Californian stands another chance in 2017. PNG runner up Crystal Walsh will be aiming for her first World Title, as will third place finishers in PNGHonolua Blomfield and Kaitlin Maguire.
"This wave suits so many shapes and styles, from single fins to tri fins," said Kaitlin Maguire, who also works a physical therapist in San Clemente. "So the diversity out here, with the chance to go left and right, will give everyone an equal playing field."
In the men's division PNG runner up Kai Sallas will be hoping to finally win a long overdue World Title after finishing second in 2009 and 2011.
"We've been having insane waves at home on the North Shore," said Kai Sallas, "So I'm looking forward to competing in Taiwan because I hear there's usually always swell this time of year."
Piccolo Clemente and Harley Ingleby are also going for their third World Titles, after quarter final finishes in PNG. Shaper Piccolo is fresh from an LQS win in Chiba Japan at the Trump Onjuka Logger Pro.
"I've studied the videos of the wave and designed a new board that I hope will be good to carry speed and hold on the nose," said Piccolo Clemente. Jinzun Harbour is situated in Donghe township, Taitung County, and home to women's event wildcard Baybay Niu, known for her elegant style.