Honolua Blomfield. Pic: Tommy Pierucki
Kai Ellice-Flint & Kaniela Stewart – two heats, one win each. Pic: Cait Miers
Kelis Kaleopaa. Pic: Tommy Pierucki
Steven Sawyer. Pic: Cait Miers
Declan Wyton – guaranteed a spot in the Final 8 showdown at Malibu. Go Dec! Pic: Tommy Pierucki
22 September 23
Another extraordinary day at El Sunzal with beautiful peeling waves and so many highlights – but to single one out, it’s hard to top the heat between Kai Ellice-Flint and Kaniela Stewart.
From where we’re sitting (bleary eyed) in the PLB bunker, Kai was surfing like some cross between Phil and Miki and Midget and Nat, and he looked to have it in the bag until the Waikiki Wizard worked a late bomb to the beach to score a nine-point something . . . and, such is life. Kai back to Oz, Kani off to Malibu.
Over to the WSL’s news release to fill in some of the rest of it:
Finals Day Set at Surf City El Salvador Longboard Classic Presented by Corona
EL SUNZAL, La Libertad, El Salvador (Thursday, September 21, 2023) - A possible Finals Day looms following today’s Round of 16 head-to-head clashes at the Surf City El Salvador Longboard Classic Presented by Corona, Stop No. 3 on the World Surf League (WSL) Longboard Tour. Beautiful, two-to-four foot conditions provided moments of spectacle from the world’s best competitive longboarders. Today’s competition powered through the men’s and women’s Round of 16 bouts and the men’s Quarterfinals.
Culhane and Calmon Officially Qualify for Longboard Championship Top 8
Sophia Culhane (HAW) has secured her place in the Longboard Championship Top 8 and will return to Malibu in search of becoming the youngest WSL Longboard Champion. Culhane’s bout with Maria Fernanda Reyes (PER) yielded an impressive 14.27 (out of a possible 20) heat total. Culhane now looks to improve her seeding for the Original Sprout Malibu Longboard Championships Presented by Tractor Beverage Co.
“I’m super happy, the conditions are pretty fun and surfing against Maria [Fernanda Reyes] is always a little stressful,” said Culhane. “Waking up this morning I was super nervous because everyone was saying ‘One more heat and you got Malibu,’ but I’m just over the moon. I’m going for the Top 3 but just letting it go right now and knowing I’m in Malibu is a really good thing. I’m hoping to go as far as I can in this event to secure one of those top seeds.”
The day’s action saw a dominant showing from fellow Hawaii competitors Honolua Blomfield and Kelis Kaleopa’a who have already qualified for the Longboard Championship Top 8. Blomfield posted one of the event’s highest single-wave score so far, an excellent 8.70 and Kaleopa’a also found Round of 16 success.
A nail-biting Round of 16, Heat 7 duel between Longboard tour veterans Chloe Calmon (BRA) and Kaitlin Mikkelsen (USA) came down to the final exchange. For Calmon, it was a must-win situation to ensure her place into the Longboard Championship Top 8, and her final effort was just enough to overtake the heat win. Now Calmon, a multiple World Title runner-up, will have her chance at joining history once more at Malibu.
“It was not relaxed (laughs), it was quite the opposite and today we had overlapping heats so you assume you’ll get more waves but we were in the moment when the tide was changing so it got really quiet out there,” said Calmon. “It’s always hard to go against a good friend, Kaitlin [Mikkelsen], but when we go in the water we have a good battle. That’s a big relief [to make it to Malibu]. That was my main goal coming here, but I have so much fuel in the tank and I can’t wait for the Quarters.”
Former WSL Longboard Champion Tilly Keeps World Title Hopes Intact
Former WSL Longboard Champion, current No. 7, Rachael Tilly (USA) inched closer toward the opportunity of chasing a second World Title with a commanding Round of 16, Heat 6 victory over Tully White (AUS). Tilly found an excellent 8.00 to secure her place into the Quarterfinals and increase her chances of staying in the Longboard Championship Top 8.
All-important heats unraveled with Mason Schremmer (USA) overtaking fellow No. 7 ranked Avalon Gall (USA) to keep her World Title hopes intact. Current No. 9 Zoe Grospiron (FRA), also earned a vital Round of 16 win over compatriot Alice Lemoigne (FRA). Current No. 1 Soleil Errico (USA) continued to hold her place atop the rankings with a Round of 16 win.
Stewart's Undeniable Style Continues, Skinner's Near-Perfection Secures Semifinals Appearance
Current No. 2 Kaniela Stewart (HAW) notched the event’s best performance thus far in the Round of 16, Heat 1. Stewart responded under pressure from Kai Ellice-Flint’s (AUS) terrific start, going on to post the event’s best heat total, a 17.10.
Stewart then backed up that performance with more excellence and a Quarterfinal victory over Longboard Tour veteran Kevin Skvaran (USA). Stewart now looks to surpass current No. 1 Taylor Jensen (USA) after Jensen was eliminated in the Round of 16.
“Definitely feels good to make the Semifinals,” said Stewart. “Hopefully the conditions are perfect like they were today. I’ll probably watch over the heats from today and see what I can focus on. I’ve learned so much watching that Final with me and Harrison [Roach] and I know why he won. I feel I just have to do the same thing he did with footwork in the pocket, perfect tens, and that’s how you win right there.”
A showdown between Longboard Tour veterans Ben Skinner (GBR) and Kai Sallas (HAW) yielded near-perfection from Skinner. Skinner’s power and combination of critical maneuvers earned him a 9.40, the event’s highest single-wave score so far.
Skinner now prepares for a massive showdown with fellow event standout Stewart in Semifinal, Heat 1. After his Round of 16 clash with World No. 1, Jensen, John Michael Van Hohenstein (HAW) continued his incredible dream run with another victory in the Quarterfinals over Philippines' star Rogelio Jr Esquievel. But, he now must face former WSL Longboard Champion Steven Sawyer (RSA) in Semifinal, Heat 2, after Sawyer's victory over Central California's Cole Robbins.
Wyton and Esquievel Secure Longboard Championship Top 8 Qualification
Despite a Round of 16 loss, Declan Wyton (AUS) secured his place among the Longboard Championship Top 8 after Tony Silvagni (USA) fell short of a win in Round of 16, Heat 8.
“It’s a massive goal and I knew I was close, and I knew having both No. 5’s drop out was a big thing,” said Wyton. “I was definitely on the edge of my seat up there with Kevin [Skvarna]. I’ll just keep trying to do what I can do. I don’t know what I come in at. I think it’ll be close for No. 5 or No. 6, but I’m just stoked to make it. This Tour has been absolutely incredible this year.”
Following his brilliant Round of 16 showing, Rogelio Jr Esquievel (PHL) officially qualified for the Original Sprout Malibu Longboard Championships Presented by Tractor Beverage Co. The Longboard Tour newcomer fell short of a Semifinal appearance to an in-form John Michael Van Hohenstein(HAW).
“This is the dream for the Philippines community and surfing, we’re so happy to be going to Malibu for the finals,” said Esquievel. “[All my friends and fans in Huntington] helped push me to do more and keep improving. It feels amazing to see some of the Filipino communities watching in Huntington at that time, it just feels really good for me.”
Event organizers will reconvene at 8:00 a.m. CST for a possible 8:35 a.m. CST start.
Women’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Kelis Kaleopaa (HAW) 14.17 DEF. Maya Glasenapp (FRA) 10.53
HEAT 2: Mason Schremmer (USA) 12.43 DEF. Avalon Gall (USA) 11.97
HEAT 3: Honolua Blomfield (HAW) 15.60 DEF. Natsumi Taoka (JPN) 13.17
HEAT 4: Zoe Grospiron (FRA) 13.43 DEF. Alice Lemoigne (FRA) 10.00
HEAT 5: Soleil Errico (USA) 13.27 DEF. Roisin Carolan (AUS) 8.90
HEAT 6: Rachael Tilly (USA) 15.33 DEF. Tully White (AUS) 11.80
HEAT 7: Sophia Culhane (HAW) 14.27 DEF. Maria Fernanda Reyes (PER) 12.93
HEAT 8: Chloe Calmon (BRA) 9.66 DEF. Kaitlin Mikkelsen (USA) 9.27
Men’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Kaniela Stewart (HAW) 17.10 DEF. Kai Ellice-Flint (AUS) 15.50
HEAT 2: Kevin Skvarna (USA) 15.06 DEF. Edouard Delpero (FRA) 10.86
HEAT 3: Kai Sallas (HAW) 15.33 DEF. Kaimana Takayama (USA) 12.73
HEAT 4: Ben Skinner (GBR) 13.53 DEF. Richie Cravey (USA) 12.26
HEAT 5: John Michael Van Hohenstein (HAW) 16.27 DEF. Taylor Jensen (USA) 16.10
HEAT 6: Rogelio Jr Esquievel (PHL) 14.57 DEF. Taka Inoue (JPN) 13.33
HEAT 7: Steven Sawyer (RSA) 10.96 DEF. Declan Wyton (AUS) 10.73
HEAT 8: Cole Robbins (USA) 14.67 DEF. Tony Silvagni (USA) 13.30
Men’s Quarterfinal Results:
HEAT 1: Kaniela Stewart (HAW) 15.67 DEF. Kevin Skvarna (USA) 13.90
HEAT 2: Ben Skinner (GBR) 16.40 DEF. Kai Sallas (HAW) 16.00
HEAT 3: John Michael Van Hohenstein (HAW) 15.67 DEF. Rogelio Jr Esquievel (PHL) 13.03
HEAT 4: Steven Sawyer (RSA) 16.00 DEF. Cole Robbins (USA) 15.10
Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Kelis Kaleopaa (HAW) vs. Mason Schremmer (USA)
HEAT 2: Honolua Blomfield (HAW) vs. Zoe Grospiron (FRA)
HEAT 3: Soleil Errico (USA) vs. Rachael Tilly (USA)
HEAT 4: Sophia Culhane (HAW) vs. Chloe Calmon (BRA)
Men’s Semifinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Kaniela Stewart (HAW) vs. Ben Skinner (GBR)
HEAT 2: John Michael Van Hohenstein (HAW) vs. Steven Sawyer (RSA)