• Former WSL Longboard Champions Set the Pace In Huntington Beach
• Broken Boards and Sportsmanship on Display at Vans Duct Tape Invitational
• Quarterfinal Draws Locked In with Bettylou Sakura Johnson and Caitlin Simmers Claiming Their Spots
• More Available at WorldSurfLeague.com
The Vans US Open of Surfing, Stop No. 4 of the World Surf League (WSL) Challenger Series (CS), gave way to style and poise as the Vans Duct Tape Invitational took center stage with four-to-six foot swell continuing to pulse at Huntington Beach. The day opened with an all-star women’s Round of 16, Heats 5-8 deciding who has a spot in the Quarterfinalists. The day then transitioned to showcase the world’s best longboarders as the men and women’s Rounds 1 and 2 took on the large walls of water and pounding shore-break of Huntington Beach.
Former WSL Longboard Champions Set the Pace In Huntington Beach
A statement-making debut unfolded from 10-time Vans Duct Tape Invitational winner and 2019 WSL Longboard Champion Justin Quintal (USA, above). The Jacksonville Beach, Florida competitor dominated proceedings against former WSL Longboard Champion Steven Sawyer (ZAF) and Japan’s Taka Inoue with an incredible hang ten before fitting in a stylish cutback to accrue an excellent 8.67 (out of a possible 10).
“I was really stoked when I saw that wave come through and it just had that perfect noseride section,” said Quintal. “Then I shot the pier so that was fun. I go into every heat the same. For me, I’m more concerned with actually catching a few good waves and when there are this many people watching you, you want to do something cool.”
Harrison Roach (AUS) has unfinished business this year after narrowly missing out on a World Title in 2021 and continued his winning form from Manly Beach, Australia to Huntington Beach in dynamic fashion. The current World No. 1 styled his way to a stunning 15.66 (out of a possible 20) heat total with technical noserides and rail-to-rail surfing.
“Luckily I didn’t break my board like some of my mates did (laughs),” said Roach. “I wouldn’t be considered a favourite out here and (Justin) Quintal is the man to beat out here, he’s won here so many times so it’s kind of fun being the underdog.”
Current World No. 2 Ben Skinner (GBR) handled his opening heat brilliantly with the wildcard threat of Tosh Tudor (USA) pushing him and fellow WSL Longboard Tour veteran Jefson Silva (BRA). But, Kaniela Stewart (HAW) turned in the first excellent score, an 8.17, of the Vans Duct Tape Invitational after showcasing his signature style and poise.
Also notching all-important Round 2 wins, Kai Sallas (HAW), and three-time WSL Longboard Champion Taylor Jensen (USA) skip the dreaded Elimination Round.
2015 WSL Longboard Champion Rachael Tilly (USA, below), who also won the North America Longboard Championships that same year, returned to Huntington Beach in phenomenal form. Tilly earned the best performer of women’s Round 2 with a 14.83 heat total, including an excellent 8.03, and is still hungry for another World Title at the young age of 22.
“It was all about wave selection out there. It was really tough all day and changing between every heat,” said Tilly. “I kind of got lucky with the first wave with the other girls being farther down the beach. Fortunately that one popped up, then I got another one back-to-back and sat in a comfortable place the rest of the heat.”
Reigning three-time WSL Longboard Champion Honolua Blomfield (HAW), maintained her winning streak, taking first place in Heat 3 by displaying her trademark smooth style. Blomfield returns to the Vans Duct Tape Invitational stage already a previous victor in 2018 and looks to add more Huntington Beach success to her resume.
“I kind of love this wave because it’s peaky and all over the place,” said Blomfield. “You never really know where to sit but something can just jump up. I haven’t surfed Huntington Beach in a while so I was just figuring it out again.”
2019 WSL Longboard Champion Soleil Errico (USA) narrowly took the win against fellow Californian Kaitlin Mikkelsen as the duo put Australian talent Tully White into the elimination Round 3.
Also skipping the elimination round and making it straight through to Round 4, 2021 Jeep Malibu Classic winner Alice Lemoigne (FRA), Chloe Calmon (BRA), and Natsumi Taoka (JPN) all earned valuable heat wins.
Broken Boards and Sportsmanship on Display at Vans Duct Tape Invitational
The large swell and strong shorepound of Huntington Beach claimed two broken boards in the men’s and women’s opening heats of the Vans Duct Tape Invitational. Juels Lepecheux (FRA) broke his board after falling on his first wave of the morning. In a true show of sportsmanship, fellow competitor Roach ran down to the beach and handed him his own personal board. Roach’s board was then used again by Victoria Vergara (FRA) who also suffered a broken board when it slammed into the pier.
Quarterfinal Draws Locked In with Bettylou Sakura Johnson (above) and Caitlin Simmers Claiming Their Spots
Reigning Vans US Open of Surfing victor Caitlin Simmers (USA) put on a showcase of backhand attacks to overpower event darkhorse Nadia Erostarbe (EUK). Simmers’ amazing year thus far has her atop the Challenger Series rankings and looks for a historic, back-to-back victory.
“The last day (of competition) when it was huge we were just trying to survive,” said Simmers. “It’s like we’re actually surfing now. The current is still pretty hard but it’s better.”
An impeccable showing from 2022 Championship Tour (CT) rookie Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) earned her a big win over San Clemente, California, and 2021 event Quarterfinalist, Sawyer Linblad (USA). The 17-year-old unleashed her forehand attack on a two-turn combination for an excellent 8.00 to close out the heat on Lindblad and make her way back into the Quarterfinals for a second-consecutive year.
“I go into each event with more confidence after making more heats,” said Sakura Johnson. “I really think it’s all about experience, surfing more heats and advancing to the next round to get the ball rolling.”
Also taking wins into the Quarterfinals, former CT elite Bronte Macaulay (AUS) and Challenger Series threat Sophie McCulloch (AUS) are now looking for a big finish of their own.
CLICK HERE FOR DAY 6 RESULTS
The next call will be made tomorrow, August 5 at 7:05 a.m. PDT for a possible 7:35 a.m. PDT start for competition.
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.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.