The 2019 Taiwan Open World Longboard Championships is underway at Jinzun Harbour with the opening day of the event window seeing a massive day of competition. Competitors battled huge clean surf in the six-foot range to see the completion of Men's and Women's Round 1 along with four heats of Men's Round 2.
Current WSL Longboard Tour rankings leader Justin Quintal has come to Taiwan with a strong chance of clinching his maiden World Title. With a hungry pack of competitors nipping at his heels, Quintal needs to give himself every opportunity to take the win and on Day 1 he started off on the right foot, winning his opening Round matchup with Aussie duo Jack Entwistle and Nicholas Brewer. He will now progress into Round 3 and one step closer to taking the trophy.
"That felt good to put myself in the best position possible finishing that heat," Quintal said. "It's a little frustrating that this event has more weighting than the other events because it leaves the door open for a lot of other guys. I'm definitely in a good position but there is still a lot of work to be done to win the World Title which is obviously the goal. That was probably one of the hardest heats I've ever surfed. The waves look really good when you're watching but once you're out there, there is a lot of water moving, there are huge clean-up sets -- it's a lot of work for sure. This is my first time in Taiwan, and it's been great. I'm really stoked to be where -- the waves are so fun and the people are awesome."
Reigning World Longboard Champion Steven Sawyer had the tough task of taking on his good friend and travel partner Kevin Skvarna in Round 1 of the Taiwan Open World Longboard Championship. It was the first time the pair have matched up in a WSL heat and it didn't disappoint with the two stylish goofy footers going wave-for-wave on the long lefts of Jinzun Harbour, carving with speed and showing grace on the nose. In the end, it was Sawyer who took the win, leaving his opponents Skvarna and Taiwanese wildcard Chung Hua Cheng to battle it out in elimination Round 2.
"Kevin and I have never had a heat against each other," Sawyer said. "Every event we joke with each other that we'll match-up and it finally happened, and I got him - this time. Staying with buddies and surfing against them is fun. There are no hard feelings - out there we're surfing against a coloured jersey and on land, we're best buddies. It's nice to get that first heat out of the way and shake the nerves off, I've been here for almost a week now and I've been scoring great waves - I love it here in Taiwan."
Fresh off a recent trip to Alaska, Harrison Roach is happy to be back in boardshorts and enjoying a more tropical climate. On his first trip to Taiwan, Roach is settling in well which was reflected in his surfing. The Noosa local looked comfortable in the solid and shifting peaks, posting the highest single-wave score of Men's Round 1, a 6.67 (out of a possible 10) for a long right with a beautiful closeout re-direct to punctuate the wave.
"I just got back from shortboard a trip to the Aleutian Islands, so it feels good to be back in warm water," Roach said. "This is my first trip here and I'm really loving it so far - we've been scoring great waves up and down the coast. This has been a really interesting year for me competing at all of these WSL events and it's been good to see traditional or real longboarding getting rewarded and I'm glad to be a part of it. There's a chance I could see one of my friends be crowned World Champion this week which is really cool. I might be in with a chance, but I'll need a lot to go my way so I'm not counting on it."
After Men's Round 1 was completed, the world's top female longboarders hit the lineup at Jinzun Harbour and impressively tackled the huge long period swells. It was no surprise that the winner of Heat 1 was defending Taiwan Open winner and reigning World Longboard Champion Soleil Errico. The heat win didn't come easy for Errico with only 0.30 points separating her from her opponents Sally Cohen and Haley Otto. The work done was enough to see Errico progress into Round 3.
"It's so good to be back in this place where I had the best day of my life last year," Errico said. "It's pretty solid this year so that heat was such hard work. Not a lot has changed in my life since becoming World Champion, I'm just trying to be humble and continue to enjoy my surfing. I've been competing a lot this year but recently there hasn't been many waves at home so I've just been training a lot and working out. It's good to finally have some decent waves though."
Brasilian sensation Chloe Calmon is still searching for her maiden World Title and has come to Taiwan in the strongest position of her career. Calmon believes the new look Longboard Tour has allowed her to stress less at competitions and focus on being consistent across the year. Calmon has proved her theory in 2019, taking out two events of the Longboard Tour and arriving in Taiwan with her best shot yet at taking the championship.
"This is such an amazing year to be a part of longboarding and see it's growth. For the first time in years, we have multiple events to decide our champions and WSL is giving us such a great platform to perform on. It's been fun competing in several events this year and I think it takes the nerves away having multiple events. At the end of the year, we will have a champion who has been the most consistent surfer. It's been a great opportunity to visit new places and surf in all sorts of different conditions. There has been a lot of talk about the title but I don't want to think too much about it just yet because there is still a lot of great surfers I need to get past during this event."
The Taiwan Open World Longboard Championship runs from December 1 - 7.