The point was peeling, the surfing was bonkers! Pic: Aaron Hughes
The ’22 Champs, Harrison Roach and Soleil Errico. Pic: Beatriz Ryder
Harrison, blistering. Pic: Aaron Hughes
Manly’s Declan Wyton. Pic: Beatriz Ryder
Women’s runner-up Sophia Culhane. Pic: Beatriz Ryder
6 October 22
First Point was chest-high and peeling with an ideal swell angle from the south wrapping right down the point, and with overlapping heats, often there were three or four surfers up at once all going nuts. Thankfully the scores were taking some time to drop as the judges checked multiple replays to sort each wave and give every rider a fair shot.
The Men’s semis fittingly came down to the four best surfers over the two days, in Taylor Jensen, Harrison Roach, Declan Wyton and Kaniela Stewart. The sets pumped for Taylor and Harrison and they traded off with longboard surfing about as good as it’s ever been, but Harry wailed with three scores over 9 - and well, any one of them could have been a 10.
With the water filling in on the tide, the ocean went quiet for the second semi but in his first-ever comp at Malibu, Declan found a couple of rippers and was leading until the last 30 seconds, but then Kani paddled into the biggest and best wave that came through and it proved the buzzer-beater that narrowly shutdown an all-Aussie final. In his post-surf interview Declan was particularly gracious naming and praising the surfers he’d come up against in earlier heats. Class!
Honorary Australian Mason Schremmer was sharp-as and on her best-ever roll in a WSL event, but came up against local Soliel Errico who’s been trained by Taylor Jensen, lives near the point, and who’s been surfing it daily for years – and it sure showed, she got the bigger ones and worked them beautifully to the sand.
The second Women’s semi featured the comp’s youngest competitors in Hawaiians and forever best buddies Kelis Keleopaa and Sophia Culhane. At 17, Kelis is one of the most naturally gifted and flowing surfers you’ll ever see, but 16-year-old Sophia’s got the full act already too and bought it all together to take it through to the final - adding she was, “a little heartbroken (for her friend) but super stoked as well.”
And then the Kani and Harry show! A major talent and hotdogger is Kani, who over the last year or so has added drop-knees and style flourishes to polish the act, but Harrison’s longboarding was simply complete – smooth and technical and critical, with added touches of flair. Here he was making a statement: this is as good as it gets! And so after years of being the man most likely, the 31-year-old from Noosa finally had his world title. And to top it all off, they then surfed a wave in together throwing in half a dozen full speed go-behinds . . . and surely Miki, Fain, Lance and the crew would have approved.
It was some act to follow, but Sophia and Soleil were soon all over it. The young Hawaiian linked some beautiful rides and solid scores, but Soleil was just unstoppable. She’d previously won the one-event 2018 WSL World Title as a raw 17-year-old in 2018, but that time she maybe had a little luck on her side. Here though she absolutely owned it, adding her newly minted and polished one-hand-raised Joyce Hoffmanesque bottom turns and daring noserides and she’s now backed it up as a two-times World Champ.
Overall it was a wonderful final day and a fitting wrap-up to the WSL’s three-event series. I really don’t think I’ve ever seen better longboarding, and watching this you’ve got to think the ancient art is in a pretty good spot in 2022.
And to top that off, at the post contest wrap-up, WSL honcho Jessi Miley-Dyer announced a four-event tour for ’23, with stops in Bells Beach, El Savador, Malibu, and a fourth to be announced. Bring it on! - JB
Below is the full wrap-up of the final day from the WSL:
MALIBU, Calif., USA (Wednesday, October 5, 2022) - Today, Soleil Errico(USA) and Harrison Roach (AUS) won the 2022 Longboard World Titles at the Cuervo Classic Malibu Longboard Championship Presented by O'Neill, the third and final stop on the 2022 World Surf League (WSL) Longboard Tour, in world-class, three-to-four foot conditions at First Point in Malibu, Calif. Errico claimed her second World Title at her home break, while Roach claimed his maiden World Title.
Malibu’s Soleil Errico Claims Second World Title at Home
Today, Errico got to celebrate her second World Title alongside family and friends at the wave that helped shape her as a surfer. She got off to a quick start in her Finals matchup against an in-form Sophia Culhane (HAW), dropping a 6.83 (out of possible 10) in the opening minutes. A solid set offered a huge opportunity for both competitors with Culhane earning a 5.67 and Errico an excellent 8.67. A brilliant exchange between the two world-class competitors then saw Errico’s footwork and transitions lead to an 8.10 as Culhane’s 7.33 kept her out of a combination situation, but Errico's finishing 8.37 secured her win and the World Title.
“I’ve been visualizing this for the last three months,” said Errico. “Winning on my home turf couldn’t be any better and I’m just so happy that all the dedication and sacrifice I’ve put into this paid off. I’m so thankful for the friends and family I have, my dad, my mom, CJ Nelson. I’m just so thankful for everyone who has supported me through the last couple days, and I'm just so happy.”
Errico’s immaculate Finals Day run began with arguably the heat of the 2022 Longboard Tour season, with Errico taking on reigning event winner Alice Lemoigne (FRA). Both surfers turned in excellent 16-point-plus heat totals (out of possible 20), and traded off as the heat leader multiple times. Needing a 7.70 (out of a possible 10) in the final minutes, Errico was able to take the win with a 7.80, landing herself a spot in the Semifinals.
Errico’s momentum was unstoppable, carrying it into a critical Semifinal heat against event dark-horse Mason Schremmer (USA), where she accrued yet another excellent heat total of 17.57 before the decisive Final against Culhane.
Australia's Harrison Roach Claims Maiden World Title
Australia's Harrison Roach came into the 2022 World Title race with the goal to surpass last season's runner-up finish. He showed every sign of accomplishing this over the two event days at Malibu, culminating in the Final against World No. 2 Kaniela Stewart (HAW).
The men’s Final unraveled with Stewart accruing a 6.33 to get an early start against Roach. The Australian fired back with an excellent 8.83 to briefly take the lead before Stewart found a quick backup, notching a brilliant 7.67 and pushing his lead. Just shy of the 20-minute mark, a crucial exchange witnessed Roach find a gem opportunity to once again regain the lead posting a 6.77 as Stewart’s 7.57 fell short of the new, near-excellent 7.94 requirement.
The final minutes provided more drama as Roach fell on a great wave and left Stewart with one last chance to claim a win. However, Stewart’s style and flow all the way to the beach missed the required score by .04.
“I’m very happy, I got close last year and I realized at that point how much it takes to get here again,” said Roach. “I just put my head down, (and) made it count. I would’ve loved to have not fallen on that second good one, I left the door open for Kani (Stewart) there and he got close. When the beach commentator announced it I thought he had the score. It’s a relief for me. Longboarding didn’t have a platform like this and it was a different style of surfing, so I’m really fortunate to be here.”
Roach’s road to the World Title began with overcoming multiple event threats including three-time WSL Longboard Champion Taylor Jensen (USA) in dominant fashion, accruing the event’s highest single-scoring wave, a 9.17, and highest heat total of an 18.17 (out of possible 20), in their Semifinal bout. Roach also had to overcome an in-form Cole Robbins (USA) with a buzzer-beater in the Quarterfinals after a Round of 16, back-and-forth battle with former WSL Longboard Champion Steven Sawyer (RSA).
The Australian made his big return to competing in 2019 as the WSL Longboard Tour made its transition and had one goal in his mind, claim a World Title. Seen as one of the sport's top-tier competitors from a young age, Roach's persistence and undeniable talent helped pave the way to where he is today and made his dream a realization.
Kaniela Stewart’s Maiden World Title Hopes Fall Short By Narrow Margin
The 2022 World No. 2 Stewart started his Finals Day campaign with an impeccable performance, taking out fellow Hawaii surfer Keoki Saguibo. The 21-year-old kept his world-class form intact heading into a high-stakes Quarterfinal against Longboard Tour veteran, Tony Silvagni (USA). Silvagni pushed Stewart to the limits and left him needing an excellent score, which he achieved with under five-minutes to go. The ocean provided for Stewart once again in a Semifinal clash with event standout Declan Wyton (AUS), and with one-minute remaining he earned an 8.07 to make his appearance in the Finals.
“It was so much fun to be out there, Harrison (Roach) was killing it,” said Stewart. “There was waves, and it was so fun to be surfing with one other guy out at Malibu. It’s perfect out there and we had a good time. I’m ready for next year, just come back stronger, get back to training and watch some videos, and just try to get better.”
Sophia Culhane Leads Day of Upsets For a Dramatic Conclusion to 2022 WSL Longboard Tour Season
A history-making run for World Title longshot Culhane came to fruition after she had two incredible performances, beginning with a Quarterfinal dual against three-time WSL Champion Honolua Blomfield (HAW). Culhane left Blomfield in need of an excellent 8.10 as time expired, eliminating the former rankings leader. She then went on to overtake another World Title threat, Kelis Kaleopa’a (HAW), in the Semifinals with an awe-inspiring display of style and flow.
The Top 8 men and Top 8 women on the rankings following the Cuervo Classic Malibu Longboard Championship will now prepare for the 2023 WSL Longboard Tour season, which was announced following the event's conclusion.
Women’s Finals Results:
1 - Soleil Errico (USA) 17.04
2 - Sophia Culhane (HAW) 13.00
Men’s Finals Results:
1 - Harrison Roach (AUS) 15.93
2 - Kaniela Stewart (HAW) 15.57
Women’s Semifinals Results:
HEAT 1: Soleil Errico (USA) 17.57 DEF. Mason Schremmer (USA) 12.43
HEAT 2: Sophia Culhane (HAW) 14.00 DEF. Kelis Kaleopaa (HAW) 13.46
Men's Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Harrison Roach (AUS) 18.57 DEF. Taylor Jensen (USA) 16.50
Heat 2: Kaniela Stewart (HAW) 13.90 DEF. Declan Wyton (AUS) 13.27
Women’s Quarterfinals Results:
Heat 1: Soleil Errico (USA) 16.53 DEF. Alice Lemoigne (FRA) 16.43
Heat 2: Mason Schremmer (USA) 16.00 DEF. Chloe Calmon (BRA) 12.60
Heat 3: Sophia Culhane (HAW) 15.27 DEF. Honolua Blomfield (HAW) 13.23
Heat 4: Kelis Kaleopaa (HAW) 14.07 DEF. Rachael Tilly (USA) 12.57
Men's Quarterfinal Results:
Heat 1: Taylor Jensen (USA) 15.06 DEF. Kai Sallas (HAW) 8.87
Heat 2: Harrison Roach (AUS) 15.10 DEF. Cole Robbins (USA) 14.17
Heat 3: Kaniela Stewart (HAW) 17.74 DEF. Tony Silvagni (USA) 15.90
Heat 4: Declan Wyton (AUS) 16.36 DEF. Ben Skinner (GBR) 15.60
Men's Round of 16 Results:
Heat 1: Taylor Jensen (USA) 14.23 DEF. Edouard Delpero (FRA) 13.50
Heat 2: Kai Sallas (HAW) 14.03 DEF. Kaimana Takayama (USA) 13.97
Heat 3: Harrison Roach (AUS) 15.23 DEF. Steven Sawyer (ZAF) 14.54
Heat 4: Cole Robbins (USA) 13.10 DEF. Justin Quintal (USA) 10.36
Heat 5: Kaniela Stewart (HAW) 13.34 DEF. Keoki Saguibo (HAW) 12.00
Heat 6: Tony Silvagni (USA) 13.00 DEF. Taka Inoue (JPN) 11.97
Heat 7: Ben Skinner (GBR) 14.90 DEF. Tosh Tudor (USA) 10.43
Heat 8: Declan Wyton (AUS) 12.10 DEF. Kevin Skvarna (USA) 11.23
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