Longboard's history stretches back to surfing's beginnings and has made its way to the world in a whole new way this season with the reinvigorated Longboard Tour (LT). The Longboard Classic New York supported by I LOVE NY witnessed a bit of that history in amazing fashion during a decisive day of competition to determine both men and women's finals day draws.
From iconic moments to some of the year's biggest upsets so far, those in attendance in Long Beach, New York, got a dose of it all.
Top seeds Kai Sallas, Tony Silvagni, along with Round 3 standouts Kevin Skvarna and Harrison Roach, smashed through the remaining heats of Round 4 before Skvarna and Roach faced elimination in Round 5.
But, one of the most anticipated heats awaited in Round 5 Heat 2 featuring LT and event standout Kaniela Stewart, 18, facing two-time WSL World Champion Joel Tudor - and it left the beach in awe. The two exchanged a wave-for-wave battle that Tudor had the upper hand in through the first ten minutes before Kaniela earned an excellent 8.00 (out of a possible 10) and then going to find a 7.80 back up to overtake one of the sport's icons. But, strategic planning from Tudor put the two competitors on the same wave and finished off with a Vans Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational style, board swap ending that showcased what the heart of longboarding truly represents event at a competitive level that drew a standing ovation from the crowd.
"I've been thinking about a World Title and it's not impossible," Stewart said. "Joel is such an amazing person and one of my favorite surfers, and I've always looked up to him. I'm so I got to surf with him. I think I've only surfed with him once in a contest in Malibu which was the first time we actually met so I'm stoked to get another heat with him. He told me I'm the next generation and I just told him he's the man."
"I knew with about seven minutes left I wasn't going to make comeback and for me I was just here to participate and watch the new generation come in," Tudor added. "I passed the baton on to him and it was a clean hand-off in the end like 'good luck, carry it from here.' That was the most proud of a loss I've ever had in my life and one of the better endings to an awesome surf career."
Following that affair, a heavyweight bout awaited between current No. 1 Justin Quintal and LT veteran Ben Skinner. Quintal controlled the majority of the heat with his signature style in conditions similar to a day in his hometown of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and looked well on his way to another victory in Long Beach. But the waves answered a down-spirited Skinner and the Englishman seized the opportunity to garner a heat-winning 8.17.
"That was a crazy heat and I really didn't have anything together before the start of the heat," Skinner said. "Justin's not only a great bloke, but he's the best longboarder in the world right now and I've got the utmost respect for him. I accepted defeat before I even went in the water and then that wave came to me and I just surfed it the best I could. It feels unreal right now and just so happy with that."
Tony Silvagni Overpowers Three-Time WSL World Champ
But the upsets weren't done yet as Sallas took down former, two-time WSL World Champion Phil Rajzman before East Coast's own Silvagni eliminated three-time WSL World Champion Taylor Jensen in a heat that came down to the wire. Silvagni seemed miles ahead of Jensen with a 12.50 (out of a possible 20) heat total before extending his lead until the final minutes when Jensen surged back to give himself a chance. But, Jensen fell short of the 6.84 requirement as both awaited the news on the beach.
"You can never count Taylor out," Silvagni said. "He's one of the best guys on the Longboard Tour and is capable of anything. It's very special. I've been having such a great day and this is what I live for. I love competitive surfing and I just want to give this heat win to my uncle who's having medical issues right now. This goes out to my family and can't thank everyone enough for all the love and support we've been getting."
Tuesday, September 10, will be the next call at 6:30am ET to determine a possible finals day.