The World Surf League (WSL) Longboard Tour (CT) took over Huntington Beach for the first eliminations of the Vans Duct Tape Invitational and Festival. The second stop of three for the 2022 WSL Longboard Tour witnessed World Title implications unfold in three-to-five foot swell with men's Rounds 3, 4, and Quarterfinals unraveling alongside women's elimination Round 3.
Women's Head-To-Head Duals Determined Following First Eliminations
The dreaded elimination Round 3 for women started the day's action. Avalon Gall kept her composure and took the heat win against Hawaii's Sophia Culhane and fellow Californian, Vans wildcard, Karina Rozunko.
A hefty upset unfolded in Round 3, Heat 2. One of Australia's top longboard talents Tully White took control of a vital heat featuring Sally Cohen and Zoe Grospiron. White's 6.33 was the determining factor in the battle for event survival as Grospiron was dealing with a broken rib and will now turn to Malibu for a big finish. The Manly Beach, Australia competitor felt right at home on the beach break of Huntington Beach with graceful noserides and footwork.
"Zoe's (Grospiron) such an amazing surfer and she's an absolute trooper, and I hope she heals up in time for Malibu," said White. "The tide is low and there's a bit of a rip running through the waves so you kind of have to trust they hold up. I was really happy to get a couple of those lefts and get through to the inside."
World Title Implications Ensue for Men's Longboarders With Semifinalists Locked In
A critical day of competition powered through Round 3, 4, and Quarterfinals of men's competition and now only four remain to vie for the 2022 Vans Duct Tape Invitational title, along with a valuable 5,000 points. Detrimental upsets unraveled for the rankings leaders as both current World No. 1 and No. 2 were eliminated from competition in a dramatic fashion.
Vans wildcard Tosh Tudor dismantled the current World No. 1 Harrison Roach (AUS) in the dying minutes as time expired before Roach could find an opportunity to answer back. Tudor then had to face another surfer he's looked up to from a young age, 2019 WSL Longboard Champion Justin Quintal.
Quintal opened with a noseride and shot the pier earning himself a solid 6.67 before the ocean slowed down to test Tudor's patience as he responded with a 4.50. But, it was the 10-time Vans Duct Tape Invitational winner who kept one of his best friends at bay until the final horn after dropping a near-perfect 9.00.
"I just hope that left keeps working into the pier, I like that wave and a lot of people before me have made that their zone," said Quintal. "(Tosh and I) were joking around before the heat and I would've been just as stoked if he'd won that heat. I was really nervous as well because I try and be mentor for him, and we have a good friendly rivalry so that heat meant a lot to both of us."
Current World No. 2 Ben Skinner came into this event looking to improve upon his runner-up result from Manly Beach with a win, but Kaimana Takayama dashed that ambition with a clutch performance. Takayama then went on to face Round 4 standout Kevin Skvarna, who had accumulated the rounds best performance with a 15.13 heat total. Takayama held his own though, eliminating the perennial Tour threat.
"I've been competing with Kevin (Skvarna) since forever, we started competing about the same time and entered the Oceanside Longboard Club together," said Takayama. "I've seen his face in a heat more than anyone else out here combined and we're really, really good friends. It was really special to share another heat with him out there and I'm so stoked to be in the Semifinals."
A battle of WSL Longboard Champions unfolded between Taylor Jensen and Steven Sawyer with Jensen controlling the affair to the final ten minutes. Sawyer answered back with a 6.70 to put himself back into the heat, but the South African star could not find the opportunity needed to surpass Jensen.
Rounding out the Semifinalists, stylemaster Kaniela Stewart and Australian standout Declan Wyton looked to claim the final spot into finals day. Stewart emerged victorious with an impressive showing in deteriorating, afternoon conditions with a 13.67 heat total.
Vans Duct Tape Invitational Paddle Race Brings Tradition Full Circle
In an exhibition of competition at its finest, some of the world's best longboarders including Skinner, Taka Inoue, Kelis Kaleopa'a, and more partook in a mad dash, paddle race to the finish line. It was winner-take-all as both men and women stormed into the water with smiles on their faces in search of a $1,000 prize. After paddling hard out to the competition zone buoy, Rachael Tilly and Skvarna dropped their boards in an exaltation of victory after crossing the finish line.
A 7:05am PDT call will determine a 7:35am PDT start for women's Duct Tape Invitational Round 4 duals.
The Vans US Open of Surfing is now open and will run through August 7 at Huntington Beach, California. The event will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, WSL's YouTube channel, and the free WSL app. Check local listings for coverage from the WSL's broadcast partners.
*The Vans US Open of Surfing is proudly sponsored by Vans, Visit Huntington Beach, Red Bull, Flying Embers, Hydro Flask, Shiseido, 805, Pacifico, Sambazon, StillHouse, Youtheory, BF Goodrich, Fu Wax, Boxed Water, and Just Egg.