Meet Your 2023 Longboard World Champions
Kai Sallas and Soleil Errico tame “intense” conditions at First Peak, drink from the big cup.
“The conditions look intense,” hyperbolized one WSL commentator.
The conditions did not look intense.
It was one-foot, high tide First Point Malibu. Light side-shore wind rippled the emerald blue of Miki Dora’s domain. The late afternoon sun lit up the cobblestones. Iron Man sped down PCH in a white Audi R8.
It didn’t have to be intense, it just had to be beautiful — the WSL’s longboard criteria is “style, flow, and grace” after all.
Perhaps that’s the argument for competitive logging in 2023. Beauty over longboard airs and “noseriding contests”.
– It was a WSL Finals-style event, with competitors surfing head-to-head for the title.
– Kai Sallas won the first world title of his career at 42 years old on a hand-shaped moontail.
– Soleil Errico wins her third world title (she won last year too).
– Commentators allude to WSL adding more lefts to the longboard tour next year.
The WSL Longboard Tour is a contentious topic, even within the longboard community itself.
A few months ago, I talked to Justin Quintal, a world title holder and 10x Vans Duct Tape Invitational winner. He’s respected by bohemian, anti-contest loggers and philistine, comp-hungry shufflers alike. Justin told me in the interview that he and other prominent longboard competitors sat down with the WSL to discuss what needed to change in the longboard tour to make it fair and to adequately represent the best of longboarding — he said that the WSL did not fully follow through on that conversation.
Justin did not compete on Tour this year. However, one of the disputed topics was the fact that there were no lefts that rivaled the rights on Tour currently, like Bells or Malibu. The commentators mentioned that next year the Tour is revamping the schedule, and will likely include at least one substantial left. This change and other changes could make the Tour more prestigious and draw the attention of surfers like Justin, Tosh Tudor, Harrison Roach, etc.
All this, however, shouldn’t minimize the achievements of Soleil Errico and Kai Sallas.
Twenty-two-year-old Soleil just won her third world title at her home break of First Point, taking out the number one seed Kelia Kaleopa’a in the process. Soleil grew up splitting her time between Kauai and Malibu before moving to Malibu full-time when she was 14 and deciding to dedicate herself to longboarding. She ended up winning her first world title before her 18th birthday, and won her second and third while attending college at the University of San Diego.
I’ll avoid describing Soleil’s surfing today in detail. Whenever a non-longboarding specialist tries to mention “hang-10s” and “curls” and “soul arching” like the commentators were doing, I can hear my logger friends cringing and wailing. Suffice it to say that Soleil’s knowledge of First Point combined with her talent and work ethic were enough to seal her the triple-double: her third world title and backing up last year’s win.
On Kai Sallas’ end, the 42-year-old Hawaiian “finally” (his words) won his first world title. Before today, he was a three-time world runner-up. The celebration was delightfully mellow compared to the clout-orgy of the WSL Finals at Lowers. Kai was lifted up the beach by world runner-up Kaniela Stewart and British competitor Ben Skinner while his wife and kids cried and cheered beside him.
Interesting to note: Kai, men’s runner-up Kaniela, and women’s runner-up Kelis are all from the Waikiki area. Their home break is Queen’s, famously the location of Queen Liliuokalani’s summer home and the place where Duke Kahanamoku taught his pupils to surf. Kai had been a hero to both Kaniela and Kelis as they grew up watching him at Queen’s. They also all ride Kai’s boards (KSLCO).
Whatever the future brings for logging, it’s special to see longboarding’s world titles be crowned at the same hollowed ground where the infamous Miki Dora gave us some of our first glances of on-screen surfing in The Endless Summer (1966).
It doesn’t have to be intense to be worth preserving.
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