Experience Takes the Day as Kai Sallas and Soleil Errico Win the Longboard World Championship
Original Sprout Malibu Longboard Championships finally ran on Monday, in dreamy knee- to chest-high First Point—pretty much the ultimate noseriding canvas.
To simply get to surf First Point with only one or two other people in the water was already a win for the eight women and eight men in the event, and it was clear that everyone was enjoying themselves, despite the pressure of the jersey. But this was a contest, after all—one that decided two world champions—so there were ultimately a couple of people who were bigger winners than everyone else.
The women’s field was stacked with talent, including three Hawaiian wahines with amazing talent on the nose. Multiple-time world champion Honolua Bloomfield was seeded into the second round, where she faced off against Frenchwoman Alice Lemoigne and American Mason Schremmer, the latter of whom had survived the first round and was looking to go deep into the field. But it was all Honolua in round 2, where she dominated with a 14.50 heat total.
Honolua faced off against Waikiki lady shredder Sophia Culhane in round three, and this time the young upstart got the better of the Hawaiian world champ, beating Honolua 17.50 to 16.33 in the best and highest-scoring heat of the event. That sent Culhane to the penultimate heat, where she faced off against another multiple world title winner in Soleil Errico—who also happens to be a local at Malibu.
Soleil Errico has looked dominant all year, and she came into Malibu with a lot of momentum after a big win a few weeks back. She proved the value of her veteran experience with a convincing win over Culhane, which set up a finals clash between the Malibu local and yet another young Hawaiian upstart in Kelis Kaleopaa, who came into the championship as the top-seeded surfer.
Unfortunately for us Town surf fans, Soleil Errico ended up beating Kelis two heats in a row, winning her third world title and sending the Hawaiian back to Waikiki with a second-place trophy.
Fortunately for Hawaii, there was still a men’s world championship to be decided—and the top two seeds were talented Town surfers. After Ben Skinner stormed his way from round two all the way through the semifinal (on the back of convincing wins over Declan Wynton and former world champion Taylor Jensen), he found himself up against the master of Queens and mentor of the new generation of Waikiki loggers, Kai Sallas. Despite being in great form, Skinner ended up coming up short against Sallas, and had to head back to England content with a third-place finish on the tour rankings.
Kai Sallas’ win set up the ultimate Town clash. It was the master versus his protégé—and the man most people say is the best logger in the world right now—Kai Sallas versus Kaniela Stewart. Kani was the top seed in the event after an ultra-dominant year, and went straight to work on the Malibu rights, beating his mentor 15.77 to 14.57 in a tightly contested heat. Kani looked unstoppable in that heat, but the world title is a best-of-three competition, which meant he still had to win another heat to claim his first world title. Unfortunately for Kani, Kai Sallas is a seasoned veteran with talent and competitive savvy of a multiple-time world champ, and he ended up out-witting his young protégé two heats in a row.