South African surfer claims longboard title in Taitung

(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (CNA) South African surfer Steven Sawyer claimed his first world longboard title in the finals of the World Surfing League (WSL) World Longboard Championship at the 2018 Taiwan Open of Surfing in Taitung on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Sawyer defeated longboarding legend Kai Sallas of Hawaii in the finals with a score of 16.10 to Sallas' 15.10 to win the US$15,000 first prize.

Sawyer said his dream since he was young was to win the world championship and that it was very special to win it in Taitung, complimenting the waves, the local food, and the warmth and friendliness of local residents.

On his way to the final, Sawyer took down longboard greats such as reigning three-time WSL World Longboard Champion Taylor Jensen and former Taiwan Open winner Tony Silvagni, both from the United States.

"2016 was my first 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," Sawyer said.

"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."

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Soleil Errico of the U.S was crowned winner of the women's world longboard championship category after defeating fellow Californian Rachael Tilly in the finals Saturday.

"I don't even know what to say right now. This doesn't feel real," Errico said. "It's been such an amazing week here and to be honest I never thought it would end this way."

The 2018 Taiwan Open of Surfing, which attracted over 200 highly-regarded surfers from around the world, kicked off Nov. 26 and will run through Dec. 9.