The stage has been set for an epic Finals Day at the 2020 Noosa Longboard Open, presented by Thomas Surfboards with another massive day of action taking place at Noosa Main Beach. Competitors and fans braved the elements, as pouring rain fell while two-to-three foot waves pumped, with Men's Round 5 and Women's Rounds 3 and 4 being completed at Main Beach.
Reigning two-time WSL World Longboard Champion, Honolua Blomfield got her 2020 title campaign off to the perfect start today at Noosa, taking out her opening heat for the year with a convincing win and progressing through the next in second position. Surfing in perfect high tide conditions early, then the difficult low tide conditions late, Blomfield's ability to adjust showed why she is the best in the world. The young Hawaiian went left and right, executing hang-tens with pivoting rail turns, to post the highest single-wave score of the event so far, an excellent 8.33 (out of a possible 10).
"It's tough to find good ones out there now but I'm just really happy to be here in Noosa," Blomfield said. "I've been coming here for years now and have really grown to love it. The waves haven't been incredible this year but it really is a beautiful place. I'm not thinking too much about being the reigning World Champion. This is a new year with new surfers, so I'm starting fresh and focusing on the future and not the past. It's been incredible to see the young girls from Hawaii do so well here. It's great to see WSL's criteria allow them to showcase their talent because they all have a lot of it."
Best known as a type of ‘surfing non-conformist,' Harrison Roach was one of the new exciting faces on the WSL Longboard Tour in 2019. A year after his first WSL event appearance, Roach was back at it on home soil. This time seeded into Round 5, he looked comfortable as he overcame Californian youngster Kevin Skvarna and one of his fellow Noosa local, Josh Constable. At last year's Noosa event, Roach and eventual 2019 World Champion Justin Quintal (USA) surfed one of the heats of the year, and with Quintal out of this event due to illness, Roach is hoping his local knowledge and pure talent will take him to his first WSL event win.
"I've been competing against Josh (Constable) for what feels like forever and came up under his wing here in Noosa," Roach said. "It was nice to have a heat with him at this event at home. I'm feeling good at the moment and have put in a lot of time down here in this bank and am feeling pretty in tune with some of its subtleties and where to find the long ones. Justin (Quintal) is such an incredible competitor and one of the guys that you'd always worry about in an event, so it's a shame that he's not here but it's also a good thing for everyone. I like my chances on this bank, as there are a few more rights than last year, which definitely suits me."
One of the closest calls of the event happened in Women's Round 4 Heat 3 when number two seed Chloe Calmon almost lost in a major upset at Main Beach. Calmon trailed in the last place for the entire heat with Aussie Tully White and Hawaii's Kirra Seale holding the two progressing positions. In the last seconds of the heat, Calmon took off on a longer wave and ripped a huge carve, then followed it up with a series of nose rides, riding the wave to the shore to get the score. Calmon moved into the top spot and progressed with White, while Seale and French competitor Alice Lemoigne were eliminated.
"I can't believe that wave came at the end I'm still in shock," Calmon said. "Nothing was really going my way at the start of that heat. I kept seeing the others getting waves but I couldn't find one then when I did get a good one I couldn't hear my scores. That was a really nervous heat. I'm stoked to have made it and be here travelling with my friends. That is the best part of doing this tour, it's all of the friends we make around the world. I'm excited to see what finals day brings tomorrow."
England representative Ben Skinner looked right at home in the tough, low tide conditions at Main Beach, taking the win over former World Champion Piccolo Clemente and Japan's Kai Hamase. It was Skinner's first heat in Australian waters in over 10 years and the Englishman was in his element, combining his trademark power with traditional cross stepping, ticking all the criteria boxes to book a spot in the Round of 16 tomorrow.
"This is my first time in Australia in 10 years and it feels so good to be back," Skinner said. "I really love it here -- the climate, the waves, the people -- it's such an incredible place. The waves aren't ideal on the low tide but I've had some awesome free-surfs around the place. Where I'm from this is pretty standard so I was right at home out there. I can't wait for the morning and hope to go deep on Finals Day."
Event Directors will reconvene tomorrow at Noosa First Point at 6:00 a.m. local time to make a call on the competition for the day.
The 2020 Noosa Longboard Open presented by Thomas Surfboards will run from February 22 - 25.