Current World Champ, South Africa’s Steven Sawyer. All pics: WSL / Jack Barripp
Former two-time World Champ, Brazil’s Phil Rajzman.
Young Hawaiian stylist Kelis Kaleopaa.
Californian gun Troy Mothershead.
Brazil’s Chloe Calmon, now through to Round 4. All pics: WSL / Jack Barripp
9 March 19
The Noosa Longboard Open has continued with the second day of competition bringing with it the events top seed's. With an unfortunate drop in swell overnight, the event was forced to move from the main event site at First Point to Noosa Main Beach to capitalise on what swell is remaining in the area for stop one on the 2019 WSL Longboard Tour.
The drop in swell and beach break conditions didn’t detract from the excitement as Californian youngster Kaimana Takayama (USA) set the pace early, progressing through his heat over three-time WSL World Champion Taylor Jensen (USA). Although Jensen snuck into Round 5, it was his compatriot Takayama who stole the show with his classic drop knee carves and elegant cross-stepping. The impressive display from Takayama could be a real glimpse into the future of competitive longboarding.
“I’ve always surfed in contests but not that many WSL events,” Takayama said. “I feel like now with the considered attention they are giving to longboarding and the addition of Devon Howard to the team there is a real place for surfers like myself in these events. I grew up looking up to Taylor (Jensen) and Troy (Mothershead) so to surf a heat with them and win is a crazy feeling and to come out on top is awesome. With the development in criteria and more stops on the Longboard Tour, this is a really exciting time for longboarding so I’m stoked.”
Reigning Women’s World Longboard Champion Soleil Errico (USA) started her 2019 campaign as she ended it, with a dominating heat win in Round 3. The young Malibu local has spent the last month enjoying the waves in Noosa and feels more confident than ever knowing she is the event top seed. Errico’s excitement for the season ahead is joined with an awareness that to go back-to-back will take a lot more than it once did with more events on tour in 2019.
“I’ve had such a great time here in Noosa, Queensland for the last month -- the waves have really been providing and are truly world class,” Errico said. “It feels really good to come into this event as World No.1 and definitely helps with the confidence. This year’s Longboard Tour is such a good development from the WSL. It’s going to take a really consistent and well-rounded performance to take the title this year which is a great thing for Longboarding.”
Former WSL World Longboard Champion and Noosa legend Josh Constable (AUS) utilised all of his competitive experience and local knowledge to progress through a tough Round 4 matchup over the low tide at Main Beach. Constable proved that a positive outlook can be all the difference when surfing heats in tough conditions.
“Although it looks terrible out there it was still really fun,” Constable said. “I’ve definitely had to surf heats in professional events in far worse conditions so this was actually pretty fun. Everyone is in the same boat and if you waited you could find a little runner so I knew there were scores were out there.”
Reigning WSL World Longboard Champion Steven ‘Steezy’ Sawyer (ZAF) got his 2019 competitive season off to a great start, narrowly taking out Heat 4 of Round 4. Sawyer, who was riding a board shaped by his father, looked fast and smooth as always as he took the heat with less than 0.67 of a point separating him and Aussie duo Max Weston and Nicholas Brewer. The super laid back World No.1 is over the moon with the opportunities that lay ahead with the rejuvenated Longboard Tour.
“Oh man I’m so stoked we’ve got an event here in Noosa,” Sawyer said. “It’s a shame it’s dropped off but it’s all good because we’re basically hanging out in paradise. This is going to be an incredible year of competing on the Longboard Tour. This is the first time in a few years I’ve been back to Noosa and I’ve never been to Spain or New York so the experiences ahead look like nothing but fun.”
Californian Tory Gilkerson (USA) has been using her experience in competitive surfing to forge a new career path in judging surfing events. The 2016 WSL World Longboard Champion has been not only been offsetting travelling to contests with her new professional endeavours but has also been learning more about competitive tactics which showed as she took out Heat 1 of Round 3.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned as a competitor from judging is that you should focus on surfing to a scale and not on who you have in your heat,” Gilkerson said. “It’s definitely been an interesting development in my career path but I’m really enjoying it and loving the positive effect it has on my own competitive strategy. This new direction and format of the Longboard Tour are massively overdue -- I’ve been competing for over seven years now and only one year, the world title has been decided by more than one event so this will make things a lot more interesting. I also think there will just be more eyes on longboarding with bigger fields meaning a more diverse group of competitors and also just heading to so many cool and unique locations,”
Another Noosa local who moved a step closer to Final Day was WSL Longboard Tour upstart Emily Lethbridge (AUS). Although she was happy to take out her Round 3 heat, she was more excited to have the chance to surf with some of the world’s best in her hometown.
“When the news came out that there was going to be a WSL Longboard Tour event in Noosa I was so stoked,” Lethbridge said. “I have a lot of experience at First Point and definitely surf here at Main Beach more than anyone in the draw so feel pretty confident. I’m just really happy to have the opportunity to surf at my home break with the world’s best and stay in my own bed -- it definitely helps with the nerves.”
Harrison Roach (AUS) was another local surfer who was looking very relaxed at his home beach, posting the highest heat total of the event so far. Roach’s 16.50 two-wave total came from serious time on the nose through the critical low tide sections at Main Beach. Roach progressed into Round 5 comfortably as he seems to be building momentum through every heat at the Noosa Longboard Open.
- REPORT BY WSL
The WSL Noosa Longboard Open is proudly supported by Tourism and Events Queensland, the Noosa Festival of Surfing, the Noosa Mal Club, WorldSurfaris and Tourism Noosa.