The Taiwan Open Of Surfing Hosted by Taitung County Government kicked off day 2 in solid 5-6ft swell with Round 1 of the ASP Women's Longboard Qualifying Series (LQS) and Round 2 of the Men's Qualifying Series (QS) and Men's Longboard Qualifying Series (LQS) events. The larger surf tested competitors in all divisions, favouring the more powerful surfers over the rest.
Ryota Matsushita (JPN) appeared right in his element in the large swell, matching the powerful waves with strong snaps and carving turns to easily advance into the next round where he will face Nyoman Cikwah (IDN), Dai Wako (JPN) and Jordan Lawler (AUS).
"I love to surf in sizeable waves so it's great to be able to surf in these conditions in Taiwan," Matsushita said. "I was watching the waves since early this morning to get a feel for which ones were the best and to get a bit of a strategy for my heat, so when I was out there I was choosing the lefts. This is my first time to Taiwan, the weather is beautiful, it's nice and warm and I love the food here."
Jordan Lawler (AUS) had a tumultuous trip to Taiwan, with passport issues forcing the young Narrabeen local to return to Australia shortly after arrival. Lawler only arrived back to Taiwan this morning but didn't let that get in the way of his performance.
"It's been a super long journey over here, but I'm so stoked to win my heat," Lawler said. "They were tricky conditions but it was super fun out there. I think I got lucky and got a couple of sneaky lefts and a right, I was just having fun. I've never been to Taiwan before, it's so cool, I've been to Japan and it's kind of similar to there. I love it here already and it's only my first day."
Dede Suryana (IDN) is looking continue his winning form after taking out the Komune Bali Pro last month at Keramas (Bali, Indonesia), vying not only for ASP Qualifying Series points but also Asian Surfing Championship (ASC) points in this event, edging himself closer to the ASC Title after today's Round 2 win.
"I'm stoked to make it!" said Suryana. "This is my fourth time in Taiwan and the surf is the biggest I've seen it here, so I just need to get used to the waves and the different conditions. It's a lot different to back home, the last event at Keramas was very powerful and I did great there. I just want to make every heat here because if I make the Quarterfinals I'll be the 2014 ASC champion."
Yu Hao Yang (TPE) was one of many Taiwanese to compete today but the only one to make it through to Round 3. Yang said that this event is an important learning curve for Taiwanese surfers to test themselves in all conditions and learn various skills from the international surfers that have come here to compete.
"I enjoyed it but it was quite difficult for me out there," Yang said. "I just tried my best but I think for us Taiwanese it's quite hard in these conditions. It was really good to see what other competitors were doing out there, so I learnt a lot. I'm quite nervous about the next round but at the same time really happy to make it through. This event is really important, we didn't have it a few years ago and since it began, it's helped introduce a different style of surfing to us and push us to another level."
Defending Taiwan Open of Surfing QS Champion Jun Shiiba (JPN) faced stiff competition from Taylor Jensen (USA) in his heat today, hoping that the coming days produce conditions suited to aerial manoeuvres that got him big scores last year.
"I just did the best I could out there and luckily made it through to the next round," Shiiba said. "There's a little bit more pressure for me this year, as last year's winner, and having Taylor [Jensen] in my heat with those conditions made it harder. Hopefully the wind gets better for me to try some aerial manoeuvres, I would really like to defend my title this year but I am also really trying to enjoy my time here."
After taking out his QS Round 2 heat against Shiiba, Taylor Jensen (USA) pulled on a rash vest for the second time today to surf his Round 2 LQS heat where he impressed judges with a long, flowing ride scoring a 9.00 (out of a possible 10) backed up by a 6.75 to score a combined total of 15.75 (out of a possible 20).
"I'm stoked to get through two heats today," Jensen said. "In the longboard heat I found the left, I was maybe subconsciously going for the left with the World Championships in mind, but they definitely had less wind and a smoother face. Moving forward my plan would be to go left on the longboard and right on the shortboard, as the wind gets under your board and helps you blow the fins out a little bit but for the longboard you need that clean face to carve."
Nic Jones (AUS), like Jensen, progressed through both his QS and LQS Round 2 heats displaying both power and flare in the large surf on offer that many competitors struggled in. While being one to watch in the shortboard division, it's the longboard division that his attention is focused on.
"I'm feeling really good after the two wins," Jones said. "It's hard work out there so after a long day I'm pretty stoked. On the shortboards I was definitely favouring the rights, whereas on the longboards the long lefts were the go. I'm really hunting down the win in the longboard division, that's my main focus for this event because if I win that then I win the ASP Australasia LQS, so just making the Final and making sure I qualify for next year's World Longboard Championships is my priority. This event has gotten so much bigger since the first time I was here, it's really exciting to see what new things they have each year."
Chelsea Williams (AUS) scored the highest combined total in Round 1 of the women's LQS today with a 7.0 and a 6.90 (out of 10) by linking fast and smooth traditional longboard turns and selecting the right waves. Williams progressed straight to the Quarterfinals.
"It was pretty tricky out there, the faces on the rights were a lot bumpier than they looked but once you got a couple of scores it was alright," Williams said. "I just wanted to get at least one good wave which I did and then I backed it up so I'm happy. I'm using this event as a practice run for the World Longboard Championships in Hainan Island, China in December, so it's a stepping stone for that and I'll try to go left a bit more in preparation for that event. I love Taiwan, I came here last year and it's awesome, the set up of the breaks and the mountains, everything really."