Duct Tape Invitational takes center stage at U.S. Open of Surfing

Harrison Roach cross steps to the front of his board as he rides a wave Thursday during the U.S. Open of Surfing.
Harrison Roach cross steps to the front of his board as he rides a wave in Heat 2 of the Vans Duct Tape Invitational men’s longboard competition Thursday during the U.S. Open of Surfing.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The longboard riders know how to put on a show, too.

The Vans Duct Tape Invitational men’s and women’s longboard competitions took center stage on Day 6 of the U.S. Open of Surfing on Thursday.

Australia’s Harrison Roach, top-ranked in the men’s longboard rankings, was even in a giving mood.

Roach loaned a board to two surfers — Jules Lepecheux and Victoria Vergara of France — after theirs broke during competition on the southside of the Huntington Beach Pier.

“Two of my friends came a little underprepared,” Roach said with a smile after winning his second-round heat. “I knew that if I didn’t do it, no one else was really going to, so I thought I’d better. They’re legends. I’d do it any day of the week. I’m just glad they didn’t snap mine as well.”

Roach is top-ranked in the three-event World Surf League Longboard Tour by virtue of winning the first competition, in Australia in May. He finds himself a little bit further from home for the second event.

Roach surfed with grace Thursday, easily winning his only heat of the day. His two-wave score of 15.66 earned him a spot in Friday’s fourth round.

Australian Declan Wyton cuts left as he competes in the Vans Duct Tape Invitational men's longboard competition on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Still, he doesn’t consider himself a favorite in Huntington Beach. He pointed to Justin Quintal of Florida, whose second-round score of 15.67 was almost identical to Roach’s.

“He’s won here so many times over the years while we were doing the Duct Tapes,” Roach said. “It’s pretty interesting that we’ve come full circle that now the Duct Tape is this event, because it used to be the alternative tour. Justin and this little pier ball left, he’s gnarly.”

Other men’s competitors who have advanced to the fourth round include Kai Sallas, Kaimana Takayama, Ben Skinner, Tosh Tudor, Declan Wyton, Kaniela Stewart, Cole Robbins, Steven Sawyer, Taylor Jensen and Kevin Skvarna.

San Clemente native Rachael Tilly, who is competing in the women’s competition, is in a bit more familiar surroundings. That is true even though she’s been living in Australia the last couple of years.

She said she enjoys surfing at Huntington Beach. In 2015, she won the World Surf League Women’s Longboard North American Championship there, before heading to China to win the world title.

San Clemente's Rachael Tilly competes in Heat 6 of the second round of the Vans Duct Tape Invitational on Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

At the time, she was just 17, the youngest female rider to ever win a world title.

“My dad grew up here, and I’ve spent a lot of time here,” she said. “I’ve won here before, so I’m just trying to just use that to my advantage and my confidence out there.”

Tilly surfed in the last heat of the day Thursday, winning the second-round heat with a two-wave score of 14.83.

“I feel pretty happy with my performance,” she said. “I think it was a really tricky ocean out there, and it was all about selecting the right waves. I’ve been watching it all day … and fortunately two nice ones came back-to-back at the beginning of the heat. Then I got to be even more selective for the rest and sat pretty comfy.”

Other women’s longboard competitors in round four include Alice Lemoigne, Maria Fernanda Reyes, Chloe Calmon, Lindsay Steinreide, Honolua Blomfield, Hiroka Yoshikawa, Soleil Errico, Kaitlin Mikkelsen, Natsumi Taoka, Mason Schremmer and Kelis Kaleopaa.

The Vans Duct Tape Invitational continues Friday morning with round three competition, starting at 7:35 a.m.

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.