Sun shines on Soleil at Longboard Championship 

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Malibu's Soleil Errico is carried to the winner's podium by coaches and family members after winning her third world title at the World Surf League’s Women’s Longboard Championship competition at First Point Beach. Photo courtesy of the World Surf League

Malibu surfer Soleil Errico rides the waves to her third world title, solidifying her legacy at iconic First Point

By Barbara Burke 

Special to the Malibu Times 

Malibu’s professional longboard surfer Soleil Errico, 22, and other competitive surfers, their families, friends, and fans waited … and waited … and waited for the World Surf League’s Women’s Longboard Championship competition to begin at Malibu’s iconic First Point Beach.

Because of the vicissitudes of the tides, a 10-day window was slated as the period during which the competition could be held. First, there was too little surf. So, Oct. 3-6 were not selected to hold the competition. Then, to make the situation more complicated, Surfrider was so entrenched in a blanket of fog on Oct. 7 and 8 that the competition still could not be held.

Early in the morning of October 9, the fog hung coyly over mid-Malibu, threatening another delay. However, soon, the sun emerged, the fog disappeared, and it was game on.

Down at the beach, they gathered, as surfing fans do, hanging out, visiting with one another, and always, always looking at the ocean, sizing up the swell, and looking for the waves to break.  

It was easy to spot Errico’s fans — they were a veritable sea of excited supporters sporting light blue T-shirts proclaiming, “Soleil All the Way — Bring it Home!” Professional surfers joined with members of the community. Surf legend Allen Sarlo was there, cheering her on as were many other surfing professionals.   

Out on the water, the competing surfers waited patiently for their best wave. Errico was defending the women’s world longboard championship she won last year at First Point, the break where she grew up surfing as a teenager after moving to Malibu from Kauai when she was 14. First Point was where Errico decided to dedicate herself to longboarding. It was where she learned both the techniques and nuances of the sport. It was where she immersed herself in — and endeared herself to — the amazing amalgam of surfers who go there often, a group composed of an eclectic mix of surfing professionals and locals, all of whom admire Errico and consider her a part of their tight-knit community.

Riding a Stewart Surfboard, Errico chose superior waves wisely, mesmerizing onlookers as she seamlessly navigated breaks, using her hips superbly, and delighted the crowd with her nose-riding and turning and trimming. Her surfing truly was poetry in motion. 

Errico bested first seed Kelis Kaleopa’a in the two-out-of-three World Title competition. Her superior form earned a 15.83 heat total in their Title Match 2 and garnered her third world title, her second at Malibu Beach. 

Emerging from the water teary-eyed, but joyful, Errico was hoisted up on the shoulders of family members and coaches and, accompanied by her deliriously delighted fans, she was carried up to the winner’s platform where she chatted with A.J. McCord, WSL’s journalist, about her back-to-back longboard championship and winning again on her home beach in her hometown.

The crowd exploded in applause. 

“It’s your beach,” professional surfer Timothy Hazelip shouted, adding, “I knew you’d win!”

“Malibu’s my home and my heart and soul are here,” Errico said, still in awe of her victory. “I have the best family ever! It’s been a long day and weekend because the fog has messed everyone up, but I trusted the process.

“I stayed strong through two title matches, and the sun coming out definitely helped. There were a few waves where I was stoked to get on the inside, and it was important to pick the right ones.”

As her adoring fans kept cheering, she said, “I love you guys and I thank my mom and dad and my coach C.J. Nelson, who has been my rock and support – he’s an amazing coach! I’m really thankful for who is in my corner and I thank everyone for riding this journey with me.”

When McCord inquired why Errico thought she won, she simply responded, “It took a lot of hard work to win the title. That’s how it goes. You need to work hard to achieve your dreams.”  

Danny Errico, Errico’s delighted father said, “The Surfrider community showed up for Soleil and to me, that’s the best part. Every day, they show up for her when she drives into the parking lot and the guys protect her, both in the parking lot, which can be dangerous, as well as when she paddles out in the water where people can be aggressive. As a dad, I’ve worried about that over the years.”

Joining in the conversation, Jean Pierre Pereat, avid surfer and instructor, said, “The group that surfs with Soleil demands excellence in the water and she brings that every day she’s out there. She shows up humble and she does the work — she’s out there in horrible conditions when I don’t want to go out.” 

Pausing, he added, “She leads others without arrogance.”

Qualifications 

For readers who are not too familiar with how longboard competitions are scored, surfers will say prowess is assessed by focusing on “style, flow, and grace.” 

The Malibu Times reached out to the World Surf League which provided more specific information about the judging criteria for longboarding, stating, “The Surfer must perform controlled maneuvers in the critical part of the wave utilizing the entire board and wave using traditional longboard surfing. The surfer who performs this to the highest degree of difficulty with the most style, flow and grace will receive the highest score for a ride. Further, in addition to the above, the following are key elements for judges to consider:

  • Nose riding and rail surfing
  • Critical part of wave
  • Variety
  • Speed and power
  • Commitment
  • Control
  • Foot work

It’s important to note that the emphasis of certain elements is contingent upon the location and the conditions on the day, as well as changes of conditions during the day.

The following scale may be used to describe a ride that is scored:

0–1.9 = Poor; 2.0–4.9 = Fair; 5.0–6.4 = Good; 6.5–7.9 = Very Good; 8.0–10.0 = Excellent.”

Source: Andrew Nichols, Media Manager (Contractor), World Surf League (WSL) North America. © Copyright 2023 Association of Surfing Professionals LLC Page 47.