Legends of longboarding, rising stars and local wildcard hopefuls are warming up on the warm-water walls of Jinzun Harbour, Taitung, hawk-eyed for a World Title in Taiwan. Women Chloe Calmon, Hiroka Yoshikawa and Crystal Hulett, along with men Ned Snow, Rodrigo Sphaier, Kai Sallas, Steven Sawyer and Kevin Skvarna have been some of the earliest-to-arrive competitors, looking as impressive as ever, slicing right, left and perched perfectly on the nose.
20 year old Californian style-master Kevin Skvarna is fresh from a career best second place at the recent Rincon 50 Surf Fest in Puerto Rico where he lost by a whisker to Tony Silvagni in a hard-fought final. With the sweet taste of a podium finish, Skvarna is fired up for Taiwan.
"I've ended up second in the North American rankings," said Skvarna, "so my head is held high thanks to my smartest contest heats to date. My fire is lit for Taiwan. I'm going for it."
Meanwhile Brazilian goofy-footers Chloe Calmon and Rodrigo Sphaier are looking cool and composed both on the nose and on the tail. Both have finished runner up before on the World Longboard Tour and now one massive performance in Taiwan could make history.
"Once more I go for a World Title," said power-surfing Sphaier, "But this year I'm really excited about the new boards I have from Portuguese shaper Lufi, made of carbon, bamboo and fibreglass. I'll put everything into every heat with equipment I can trust."
Also targeting their first World Titles (and also former World Championship runners-up) are Ned Snow, Kai Sallas (HAW) and Steven Sawyer. All have arrived armed with a broad quiver of boards to match the various conditions. Snow, Sawyer and Sallas have been looking razor sharp and ready for anything while freesurfing the wedgy rights.
"You can get a bit of everything here," said Sallas, "So I've come with some old favourites for clean days, and trusted designs with pulled in tails if it gets bigger."
"I've been really working on my footwork," said Snow, "as I believe the controlled walking and extra steps up to the nose and back to the tail can really make the difference in the scores."
"I think wave selection is key here," adds Sawyer, "getting those open-faced rides like Edouard Delperro (FRA) did to win the event last year."
"Adaptability is also key at Jinzun," said local Taiwanese legend Baybay Niu. "In any week during the northeast monsoon it can be small, big, or windy. But it won't be flat. This is one of the most reliable swell patterns with shoulder to head high everyday from November to March."
Baybay Nui will be competing in the trails event with last year's trials winner Shih Hsiang Yun from Yilan in the northeast of Taiwan. There are also two wild cards up for grabs in the men's division, with last year's winner Rory MacDonald ready to face fierce opposition from fellow Kenting resident, the effervescent Chen ‘Tomei' Tong Ming.
An avid supporter of the local surfers is Taitung County Mayer Justin Huang, who has been a great champion of the event. "All the international competitors bring inspiration to the local community, and each year the level of Taiwanese surfing gets higher. Hopefully one day we can have a World Champion."