After eight years away, the World Surf League (WSL) was welcomed back to Long Beach, New York, with fun conditions to begin the Longboard Classic New York, stop No. 3 on the Longboard Tour (LT), for a marathon day of competition. Both men and women's Rounds 1 and 2 were put to rest with a first glimpse at some of the world's best making their debuts alongside emerging event threats.
With an all-time forecast for Saturday's proceedings, another monumental day looks to continue the trend for the inaugural Classic.
Kelia Moniz Notches A Momentum-Shifting, Early Heat Win
Two-time WSL Champion took to the water in brilliant form, showcasing her world-class talent alongside fellow Hawaii competitor Haley Otto and eliminating Round 1 contender Erin Meza-Ashley. Moniz's style still rivals that of the world's elite after her three-year hiatus away from competition until this year's Noosa Longboard Open. The Oahu, Hawaii, native hasn't broken past Round 4 just yet this year but has the confidence and experience to make a charge.
"It's the best having some family here on the beach supporting me and I lived here for a few years with my husband so it's great to have their support," Moniz said. "It was so good to finally win a heat. I just wanted to have fun and catch two decent waves while taking my time. I've been rushing to find scores and forcing the issue so I just took my time and it was very nice."
Early Success For Natsumi Taoka
The Japanese competitor sealed up an incredible day of surfing with Round 2's best performance of an 11.67 heat total. This is Taoka's first visit to the waves of Long Island and, despite some pre-heat nerves, took control of the heat for a Round 2 victory while eliminating local favorite Dakota Ejnes who teaches surf lessons at Skudin Surf -- right behind the contest site.
"The waves were so good even though the current was really strong which made it hard to paddle out," Taoka said. "I was nervous before the heat but as soon as I got that 5 for my first wave the nerves were gone. I want to enjoy every heat just because this wave is great and hopefully I can do the same in the next round."
Longboard Legend Takes Over Men's Affairs
Former two-time WSL Champion Joel Tudor put on a clinic in his debut Round 1 and 2 heats, accruing the day's best performance in Round 2 with a 13.03 (out of a possible 20) heat total, and 7.50 (out of a possible 10) single-wave score alongside an in-form Australian Jack Entwistle. Tudor showcased his timeless style and poise with signature footwork, as well as fin-first takeoffs, to put on a show. But, the 43-year-old is simply enjoying the moment and embracing the opportunity to compete near the Big Apple.
"There's been a different shift of the crowd that are competing now and I'm just here to support," Tudor said. "I didn't really come here with the intention of doing well, I just love New York. I brought two boards here so I've got a kinda ‘boat' if it gets small and I've also got a Nat Young model that's a mix if I want to meet the different judging criteria. I actually surfed in a Final with Jack's dad almost 29 years ago just for some perspective and now I'm in a heat with his son (laughs)."
On the opposite end of the competitive spectrum, 14-year-old Chase Lieder made his way from just down the road in Montauk, NY, alongside fellow Long Island native 12-year-old Noah Avallone. Lieder earned a runner-up behind Australian talent Matt Chojnacki and continued into Round 2 before facing elimination.
From Huntington Beach to Long Beach: Mothershead Keeps It Going
Kai Hamase nearly matched Tudor's 7.50 with a 7.17 of his own, but it was Troy Mothershead who helped eliminate Round 1 standout Federico Nesti in his Round 2 Heat 3 debut. The San Clemente, California, native who now resides in the Ventura area put on a great show at the Joel Tudor Vans Duct Tape Invitational and carries that momentum here.
"I'm stoked to make it through that one and it's nice to be on the East Coast with some waves because I grew up going to Cocoa Beach, Florida, and it was always flat," Mothershead said. "It was great watching the guys in Spain, Justin's been surfing good and Harrison as well so it's cool to see some traditional surfing being scored -- it's really cool to be a part of this little revamp of the Longboard Tour."
Motherhead's fellow Californian David Arganda also triumphant with two heat victories to find himself into Round 3.
International Contingent Proves Strong In Debuts
Carlos Bahia represented a strong international contingent and returns to the LT after being a former World No. 3 over a decade ago. Bahia's showcase earned him Round 1 and 2 victories to kick off his campaign with plenty of steam, eliminating higher seed Chris Koerner and besting LT veteran Lucas Garrido Lecca. This marks Bahia's return to the LT after a year hiatus and is relishing every moment.
"I felt really good out there and I'm just thankful to be back on the Longboard Tour," Bahia said. "I couldn't have done it without all my friends and sponsors who have supported me to get back here. I'm riding a single fin and it's 33-inches wide that I picked up in between here and Spain but I'm just really happy to be competing and to take a few heat wins."
Bahia's fellow compatriot Rodrigo Sphaier also is into Round 3.
Not to be left out of the conversation, Australian talents such as Entwistle, Matt Chojnacki, Anthony Spencer, Declan Wyton, and William Crowe are all into Round 3 to join their compatriots who await a New York debut.
Event organizers will reconvene at 6:30am ET to determine a possible 7:00am ET start to either men's Round 3 or women's Round 3 action.