Steven Sawyer (Jeffreys Bay) finished runner-up in the Noosa Longboard Open 2019, the first of four events on the World Surf League (WSL) Longboard Tour that decide the annual world longboard champions in the revamped format introduced this year.
Sawyer, the top seed and reigning WSL longboard champion after winning the one-off title decider in Taiwan in December, was elated to contest the final against Justin Quintal (USA) and is looking forward to travelling to venues he has not previously visited to defend his crown this year.
“I love competing so much it’s in my blood,” Sawyer said. “Having more events for the Longboard Tour and the revamped format is so good. I’m so stoked to have shared a heat with Justin (Quintal) and the fact that it was a final made it even more special.
First or second is a great result as I had a bit of pressure to back up my win in Taiwan so I’m really happy. It’s been an amazing week hanging out in Noosa, Queensland — I love this place.”
The surfer-musician, who grew up riding the long walls of Jeffreys Bay and has won internationally rated events on both short and longboards, cut a swathe through the world’s best riders of surfboards that are a minimum of 2.8 metres in length and have single fins.
Sawyer eliminated two-time world champ Phil Rajzman (BRA) with a last minute ride in their Round 5 encounter, convincingly outpointed 2006 world champ and four-time Noosa event winner Josh Constable (AUS) in their quarter-final clash and defeated three-time world champ (2011,2012 and 2017) Taylor Jensen (USA) in their semi-final duel to reach the final.
In his first WSL event in almost five years, Floridian Quintal surfed through eight rounds at three locations including First Point, Main Beach and Castaways as the organisers moved the event to the best waves in the area as the swell faded.
He posted excellent scores all the way but after a boundary pushing performance in his semi-final, it seemed as if he had peaked too early, leaving Sawyer to lead for the majority of the final.
Fortunately for Quintal, he found a long walling left and rode it perfectly, combining drop knee cut-backs with some long hang-tens through the critical sections to take the lead and clinch victory.
“This feels amazing and definitely a little unexpected,” Quintal said. “It was a super long trip to get here and a bit of a last minute decision which I’m pretty glad to have made.
It’s been a really crazy week with the swell dropping and the event moving around a lot. The way the event crew have dealt with it is super impressive and we’ve always been in the best waves possible each day.
“The direction the WSL is taking with the Longboarding Tour is a really great one. I think we will see a lot more of the top longboarders competing at all of these great locations which is going to put longboarding in such a good place. I’m really excited to compete in Spain and New York and hopefully go all the way to Taiwan at the end of the year.”
Sawyer’s compatriots Sam Christianson (Durban) and Dylan Macleod (Port Elizabeth) were both eliminated in their opening heats with Christianson finishing equal 33rd and Macleod equal 57th overall.