25 October 18
A momentous occasion awaits at Domes Beach, Puerto Rico for the Men and Women's Rincon 50 Surf Fest. It marks the first North America LCT qualifier in three years since hosting the North America Longboard Championship at Huntington Beach in 2015.
With the support of Puerto Rico's Tourism Company and longboard legend Barry Church they are bringing back a part of the island's history by celebrating the 50th anniversary of its classic Surfest.
"For those of us who were at the 1968 World Championships, it is very exciting to return to waves that changed many of our lives and witness another Surfing Championship with the legends of tomorrow," Church said. "But, Rincon 50 Surf Fest is not only about history, it's also about today and and the future of the ever-growing sport of surfing."
Those legends of tomorrow include a talented men's field such as LCT competitors Tony Silvagni and Kevin Skvarna, alongside the likes of Steven McLean. SIlvagni began competing alongside some of the world's best longboarders in 2009 and quickly put his name as one of the top threats toward a World Title -- placing No. 6 in 2011. Now, the 31-year-old is keeping that dream alive and staying sharp in the process.
"I am stoked to have another regional qualifier to compete in for North America to secure a position on the World Longboard Tour," Silvagni said. "Puerto Rico is one of my favorite destinations to surf at and to have a competition there is special to me since it's a place I go to every winter. I enjoy competing and it will take the pressure off of me if I perform well to secure a spot on the Tour next year as well.To qualify for the Tour is one of the best feelings ever. I remember the first time I qualified and how good it felt to surf amongst some of the best long boarders in the world that I have been idolizing at a young age. This event is giving a great opportunity for new surfers to join the tour after not having a qualifier for three years."
Kaitlin Mikkelsen, formerly Maguire, is more than ready for a shot at cementing herself as one of the region's top competitors before heading to Taiwan to contest for a World Title. Mikkelsen finished at No. 5 on the rankings last year after a great run through the two events, but knows the importance of keeping her fellow surfer's dreams alives as well.
"The amount of uprising talent is unbelievable," Mikkelsen said. "The new upcoming girls deserve a chance to show off their skills and style as well as have a chance at making their dream of surfing on the WSL Tour a reality. Also, I'm very excited to compete against this new pool of talent and back up my ranking up for future Tour events. The longboarders in North America tailor their lives around the longboard lifestyle. These type of opportunities motivate the most talented surfers to keep pushing their limits and inspire the younger generation by providing them with a dream to one day become a professional surfer."
But, it's not only a big opportunity for North America surfers. The island is finally back on its own two feet enough to host this event following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria and Irma last year and one of the event producers Peter Aviles knows the significance.
"The anticipation is amped up because it's the first major sports tourism event in Western Puerto Rico since last year's hurricanes," Aviles said. "Tourism operators and businesses are ready for business and are really looking forward to the arrival of the many visitors that will arrive in the area. The area welcomes a new pre-winter season event to bolster its economy and hopes that it becomes an annual event."
DATES: NOVEMBER 15 - 18
- REPORT BY ANDREW NICHOLS / WSL