The action has continued today at the Taiwan Open World Longboard Championship as Jinzun Harbour continued to dish up excellent conditions for some of the best Longboarders on the planet. With competition moving into Men's Round 2, the first group of eliminations meaning the first group of competitors were sent home.
Two-time World Champion Harley Ingleby once again found himself in the danger of a Round 2 elimination at the World Longboard Championships after a narrow Round 1 loss. The powerful all-rounder then had the task of taking on local wildcard Pan Hai Hsin (Rory McDonald) in a do-or-die heat. The local started well but was unable to overcome his experienced counterpart, but the local Taiwanese surf fans were proud of Hsin's performance and stoked to see crowd favourite Ingleby advance.
"The conditions are pretty good out there and it's a perfect peak, but the higher tide made it easy to be out of position," Ingleby said. "The 30-minute heats were really and truly needed. It got pretty slow, but in man-on-man heats, there's still plenty of opportunities. Rory (Pan Hai Hsin) is such a good young surfer so it was great to have a heat with him and with only some small scores at the start I knew if he found that one, and it's one of his local breaks, he could've easily stitched me up. I've had a few of those Round 2 heats recently so I feel like I'm getting used to that pressure."
Although he was eliminated in the second round, local wildcard Pan Hai Hsin was relishing the opportunity to surf against a former WSL World Longboard Champion.
"Surfing against a former World Champion like Harley (Ingleby) is an amazing experience," Hai Hsin said. "It's so good for all of the local Taiwanese surfers to spend time with the professionals and see how they surf and what their equipment is like. I and all of the local surfers love this event and hope it comes back every year."
Heat 7 of Round 2 was a duel between two of Longboarding's new-wave of traditionalist competitive surfers, Kevin Skvarna and Jack Unsworth. With each surfer exclusively surfing on single-fin logs, the heat was bound to be a battle of the nose-rides, and that is what it was. Unsworth showed moments of brilliance, riding the nose of his board shaped by countryman and fellow competitor, Ben ‘Skindog' Skinner through the critical sections, but struggled with his wave choice. Skvarna's experience at Jinzun paid off, finding a combination of lefts and rights to win the heat and progress into Round 3.
"It was really cool to come up against Jack (Unsworth)" Skvarna said. "He is a similar age to me and surfs in the same, traditional style to me which is cool to see -- it's good to see more of that in the World Championship event. The waves back at home in California have been pretty slow for the last few months so I'm stoked to be here in Taiwan where it has been pumping for the last week -- I love this place."
Brazilian powerhouse Rodrigo Sphaier dominated his Round 2 heat against World Championship debutant Steven McLean in Heat 3. Sphaier posted two solid scores early while McLean struggled to find a rhythm, and is eliminated in equal last place. Sphaier moves into Round 3 and closer to the possibility of a Brazilian World title whitewash in 2018.
"I was struggling to find the good scores in the first heat, but this heat was a lot better even though I was still battling some tough conditions," Sphaier said. "It was an improvement, but I know I can do better. This is my job to deal with varying conditions and winds, that's why we're pros. It's exciting to be here competing for a world title -- especially when we could have Junior, shortboard and longboard world champions all from Brazil in 2018."
Earlier in the day, the action began with Round 1 Heat 8 as Julian Schweizer earned a spot straight into Round 3 with a great heat win. This feat is made even more impressive by the fact he is the first Uruguayan surfer to compete at a WSL World Longboard Championships. Steven Sawyer was in excellent form during Round 1, swooping left and right at Jinzun to garner a solid heat total of a 14.00 and sail past the cutthroat Round 2 affairs.
"I'm feeling great, the vibes are good and the waves are insane," Sawyer said. "This is definitely one of my top surf destinations, last year was the same and it's just the ultimate. That was the third time I've broken a board duck-diving -- so lesson learned."
Also into Round 3 were Ben Skinner, 2x World Champion Piccolo Clemente (PER), Jared Neal (AUS), Scotty Fong Jnr, Makamae Desoto, Emilien Fleury, Jefson Silva, Jack Entwistle, Austin Hollingshead, Josh Constable, and Tony Silvagni who all won their opening round heats.
Event directors will reconvene tomorrow morning to assess conditions and make a call for competition to potentially get underway at 6:30 am local time. Be sure to tune in as it is likely we will see the Women's World Longboard Championship get underway.