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Sun, 2 December 2018

JBay's Steven Sawyer has won the 2018 WSL World Longboard Championship at the Taiwan Open of Surfing, defeating longboarding legend Kai Sallas from Hawaii in clean 3ft surf.


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CHAMPION STEEZY! Steven Sawyer betters his 2nd at the same event in 2016. Photo WSL


Sawyer will remember Jinzun Harbour in Taitung, Taiwan for many years to come as the venue for one of the 24-year-old's most epic performances. Steezy was on fire throughout but saved his best 'til last, finals day, when he posted strong totals in all three heats, including a near-perfect 9.50 in the semi-finals, the highest of the event.

Sawyer’s combination of traditional and progressive longboarding manoeuvres was impeccable as he went one better than his runner-up finish at the 2016 World Longboard Championship.

“2016 was my second year at the World Championships and I don’t think I was ready or prepared to win. This year I was definitely ready,” Sawyer said. “I still pinch myself when I surf against guys like Kai (Sallas), Taylor (Jensen) and Harley (Ingleby), They are all my heroes so competing against them is surreal.

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TAYLOR TAILING: Steezy knocked out the dangerous Taylor Jensen in the semis. Photo WSL


“I was watching Kai all week and he was looking to be the guy to beat so when I came up against him in the final I was really nervous. It was all good though, as I had such an incredible crew cheering me on from the beach that got me really pumped up to perform.”

Sawyer, who is also an accomplished shortboard competitor who has won a WSL QS event and earned a wildcard into the 2017 J-Bay Open Championship Tour event, was competing on a surfboard shaped by his father, Des Sawyer, that seemed to suit the waves of Taiwan perfectly. He now joins a select group of South African-born WSL World Champions that includes Shaun Thomson, Wendy Botha, Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker (BWT) and Jordy Smith (Junior).

“My dad has been shaping me incredible boards recently and they worked so well all event. This is my second time to Taiwan and it is such an amazing place with amazing waves, I think it’s the best surf trip I have ever done. Now it’s become even more special for me,” said Sawyer, who had the massive crowd supporting him on the beach erupting every time he caught a wave, making the atmosphere electric.

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HANG TEN BRU: The talented Sawyer mixed up the old with the new school moves. Photo WSL


Kai Sallas was obviously despondent after coming just short of the title once again. In his 15th year of competing at the World Longboard Championships, a maiden title continues to elude him. Regardless of his runner-up finish, the Hawaiian will remain as one of the icons of modern longboarding.

“To make it all the way to the final and then lose never feels good -- it really hurts,” Sallas said. “I feel like I was surfing so well all event and then just lost my rhythm in the final. I’ve been competing for a World title for 15 years now and come really close a few times. I think maybe next year I won’t be taking it as seriously as I do because it hits you harder when you don’t win. I’m happy for Steven and his win, but I’m definitely hurting.”

On his way to the final, Sawyer took down the reigning three-time WSL World Longboard Champion Taylor Jensen (USA) in their semi-final encounter and former Taiwan Open winner Tony Silvagni (USA) in the quarter-finals.

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TURN STYLE: Kaitlin Mikkelsen smoothly pulls off an old school hang five. Photo WSL


Sawyer’s fellow WSL Africa representatives were eliminated earlier with Sam Christianson (Durban) advancing to Round 3 before ending his debut campaign in equal 13th. Alfonzo Pieters (Muizenberg) and Chrystal Hulett (St Francis Bay) were both ousted in Round 2 with Pieters finishing equal 25th in the men’s event and Hulett equal 13th among the women in her maiden world title event.

The 2018 Taiwan Open of Surfing will continue on Monday with the WSL World Junior Surfing Championships. This is the first year in WSL history that the two events run at the same venue. The best 18-and-under surfers in the world will battle for the chance to join the historic winner's list that features the likes of Andy Irons (HAW), Joel Parkinson (AUS), Adriano De Souza (BRA), Jordy Smith (ZAF), Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS), Laura Enever (AUS) and many more.

The WSL Africa regional representatives include Luke Slijpen (Hout Bay), Max Elkington (Kommetjie), Eli Beukes (Kommetjie) and Luke Thompson (Durban) in the junior men’s event while Kai Woolf (Jeffreys Bay) and Zoe Steyn (East London ) will be challenging for the junior women’s title.


Men’s Final
1: Steven Sawyer (ZAF) 16.10
2. Kai Sallas (HAW) 15.10

Men’s Semi-final
SF1: Steven Sawyer (ZAF) 16.10 DEF. Taylor Jensen (USA) 12.96
SF2: Kai Sallas (HAW) 15.80 DEF. Cole Robbins (USA) 15.10

Men’s Quarter-final
QF1: Steven Sawyer (ZAF) 14.76 DEF. Tony Silvagni (USA) 12.94
QF21: Taylor Jensen (USA) 14.23 DEF. Harley Ingleby (AUS) 13.57
QF3: Kai Sallas (HAW) 16.33 DEF. Edouard Delpero (FRA) 12.83
QF4: Cole Robbins (USA) 14.67 DEF. Antoine Delpero (FRA) 12.36

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