Just when spectators and fans thought the upsets of former World Champions may be over, Papua New Guinea proved everyone wrong during a massive day of Quarterfinal battles. The crowd lined Tupira's shore once again to witness the world's best longboarders battle for a spot in the final day of competition -- now set for tomorrow.
The women began today's action brilliantly as a rematch from the 2015 Jeep World Longboard Championships Final kicked off the Quarterfinals. Rachael Tilly came out against the 2015 World Champion over Crystal Walsh that year, and that was clearly on Walsh's mind. Though Tilly had an edge on Walsh throughout the heat, last-minute heroics from the Hawaiian earned her a near-perfect 9.00, eliminating Tilly from the proceedings.
"I've met up with her a few times since then as well and never come out victorious so going into that heat I was a little nervous with that in the back of mind," Walsh said. "But, I wasn't going to let that throw my game. I could hear the commentator give the one-minute warning and I saw that wave coming, and it was a bomb. I just pulled it together and gave it all I had and it worked out -- I'm so pumped."
That trend continued into Heat 2 of the Quarterfinals, as Kaitlin Maguire defeated former World Champion Chelsea Williams with a brilliant performance. Maguire trailed in need of a near-excellent score for most of the heat until a 7.17 lowered that requirement. But the Californian wasn't done yet, and found a 5.97 in the dying minutes to overcome Williams and hold on to that lead until the final buzzer sounded.
"That was such a hard heat against Chelsea Williams, my nerves were out of control out there, but I held it together and I'm just ecstatic to be moving on," Maguire said.
Chloe Calmon, the 2016 World Longboard Championships runner-up, put an end to the upsets and locked in her Semifinal appearance on the WLC stage once again, this time over Alice Lemoigne. Honolua Blomfield followed suit as the higher-seeded surfer over Lindsay Steinriede with yet another 9.00, and now prepares for a big Semifinal bout with Calmon.
The men's action got in the water right away following Blomfield's performance and intense battles followed featuring three World Champions still remaining in the draw, but not for long.
A world-class battle ensued to start the men's Quarterfinals with Kai Sallas pitted against Australian 2x World Champion Harley Ingleby. Sallas and Ingleby both got off to a quick start, though it was the Hawaiian who topped Ingleby with an 8.33. The two continued trading wave-for-wave until the final horn and it was Sallas who shut the door with a near-excellent 9.57. Sallas has been runner-up in the WLC on two occasions, but has the chance to claim his first-ever win here in PNG.
"Harley is one of my favorite surfers so to beat him, 2x World Champ, and make it to the Semis makes it that much more special," Sallas said. "I've always known I could [win a World Title], but it's really hard when you only have one event a year. You have to be lucky on that day, that event, and that moment.
"I never really got along with China and a few other spots -- I feel much better out here with this being my style of wave. If I walked up on any given day and saw these waves I'd be psyching to get out there. I feel like I'm surfing better than I ever have in my life."
Antoine Delpero added to his World Champ scalp collection with another phenomenal performance and eliminated 2x World Champion Piccolo Clemente. Delpero got off to another quick start and continued to feel the flow of Tupira beneath his feet, something that earned him an 8.17 in the early goings and looked poised for a big finish tomorrow.
It was the amazing performance from Adam Griffiths, however, that shut down Delpero's brother and event standout Edouard Delpero. Griffiths has bettered his best result at a WLC with each passing heat after Round Three and is now into his first-ever Semifinal. Griffiths lost his mother just three months ago, and has been surfing with more passion than ever before.
"I can't believe it, to have made it this far is just an incredible feeling and I'm beyond excited to keep this momentum going," Griffiths said. "I've been pretty relaxed, that heat was a bit stressful -- my head was throbbing and I felt like it was going to explode. Luckily I just about managed to keep it together, but now that I've made it this far I feel a lot of stress off me. Now it's all about enjoying the rest of my time here and this amazing experience."
In an all-American heat, Taylor Jensen -- a 2x World Champion and the contest's only remaining Title holder -- displayed his powerful surfing over the stylish Cole Robbins. Robbins opted for a classic single-fin setup, but it wasn't enough to top an on-fire Jensen, who ran away with the heat after his 8.33 opener and hopes of getting a jumpstart toward a third Title.
Tune in at 7:30 a.m. AEDT for tomorrow's final day of competition as the Kumul PNG World Longboard Championships crowns its inaugural champions.