U.S Women and Japanese Men secure their spots for Paris 2024 in surfing

Led by Kanaoa Igarashi on the men’s side and Kirra Pinkerton on the women’s, Japan and the United States are on their way to Teahupo’o, Tahiti in 2024

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The United States women’s surfing team and Japan men’s surfing team punched their tickets to Paris over the weekend at the 2022 ISA World Surfing Games in Huntington Beach, California. Tokyo 2020 silver medallist Kanaoa Igarashi led Japan to victory on the men’s side while Kirra Pinkerton got the job done for Team USA on the women’s side.

Surfing is all about timing and trusting yourself while choosing the right wave. Igarashi learned that on his way to a championship. Following the competition, Igarashi told Olympics.com, “This week I learned a lot about myself. In surfing, you have to be selfish but I really learned a lot about myself as a person and how important it is to share that competitive energy and knowledge with the team and to bring a team together.”

His leadership is partially what led Japan to a stellar performance in the water. Along with his teammates Shun Murukami and Keanu Kamiyama, Igarashi and Japan finished with a total of 1,835 team points to be able to hoist the trophy at the end of the event and earn a bid to Paris in 2024.

Igarashi could not hide his excitement after his final run. With an ear to ear smile on his face, he emerged from the water to celebrate the accomplishment. Igarashi shared his feelings on the Olympic qualification saying, “Obviously, the individual win is great, but to know that I secured a spot for Japan in the Olympics coming up, that’s such a special feeling,” Igarashi said. “The thing is, it’s not even whether I go or one of my teammates goes. Just knowing that there will be someone there representing— that means a lot. Honestly, I’d be more than happy to see one of my fellow countrymen go. Hopefully it’s not just one of us, hopefully there’s multiple of us.”

On the women’s side, it was a joint effort to be able to hoist the trophy, but the win was due in large part to a stellar performance by 19-year-old California native Pinkerton. The young, vibrant surfer had to surpass three-time World Surfing Games champion Sally Fitzgibbons of Australia and veteran Pauline Ado from France and she did just that.

Sep 23, 2022; Huntington Beach, California, USA; Rachel Presti (GER) competes in the Aloha Cup at the ISA World Surfing Games. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2022; Huntington Beach, California, USA; Rachel Presti (GER) competes in the Aloha Cup at the ISA World Surfing Games. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the final heat, Ado was leading with a 13.00 with Fitzgibbons right behind with an 11.60. It came down to the last few minutes for Pinkerton who recorded a final score of 13.60 from a 6.30 wave and a 7.30 wave to secure the win.

Following her win, Pinkerton said, “I told myself at the start of the competition that I wanted to take the little girl inside of me to the top and I can’t believe that I’ve done that. I’m so proud and so happy I’m one step closer to my dream of trying to win gold at the Olympics.” Perhaps it is the motivation for that little girl inside to win an Olympic gold medal that led her to such a strong performance.

U.S. teammates Zoe McDougall, 22, and Gabriela Bryan, 20, were also instrumental in the team win helping the U.S. to a total of 1,880 points, only edging out the Australian team by 65 points and France by 145 points. Had Fitzgibbons finished in first or second, the team win would have gone to Australia, but Pinkerton’s motivation proved to be too much.

With these two youthful teams headed to the famous waves of Teahupo’o in 2024, it is a guarantee that the competition will not disappoint if these six surfers end up being the ones to represent their countries.

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