The 17-year-old surfer from San Clemente was shocked when she got the news.
Kirra Pinkerton, an up-and-coming surfer making waves in the surf world, was selected to put her skills on display alongside some of the best in the world at the first contest since the coronavirus shutdowns decimated the competition season.
Rumble at the Ranch is an exhibition-style event that kicks off on Sunday, Aug. 9. Pinkerton and others will surf not for points but for bragging rights in the team-format event that pairs up one male and one female to battle in the Surf Ranch. The man-made wave pool built by 11-time world champion Kelly Slater is set in the center of agricultural and farm land of Central California.
Fans will get to watch online as Pinkerton goes up against some of the surfers she calls her heroes, several also traveling from her hometown to the wave pool.
“It’s almost still unbelievable,” she said, speaking on Friday from her hotel room in Lemoore, near Fresno, getting ready for a practice session later that evening.
Pinkerton, like all the other 16 surfers gearing up to face off, was quarantined for a stint after required coronavirus testing that ensured all the surfers were safe to compete.
“I was very nervous,” she said, noting the results came back and none of the surfers tested positive, allowing the contest to move forward.
The Rumble at the Ranch is part of the new The WSL Countdown, a series of regional, pre-season exhibition events in the U.S., Australia, France and Portugal that will bring competitive surfing to fans during a time of restricted international travel.
Slater, of course, wouldn’t miss the event and is paired up with Ojai surfer Sage Erickson. The names of the 16 surfers were pulled out of a hat at random to select the teams. Pinkerton will be surfing with Conner Coffin of Santa Barbara.
There’s plenty of other familiar names in the line up, including fellow San Clemente surfer Kolohe Andino, who is paired up with up-and-coming surfer Alyssa Spencer, who lives in Oceanside.
Kanoa Igarashi, of Huntington Beach, and teammate Tatiana Weston-Webb, both World Tour surfers, would have been at surfing’s debut for the Olympics before it was postponed until next year.
Instead, they’ll be joining the others at the wave pool, like San Clemente surfers Griffin Colapinto and Lakey Peterson, from Santa Barbara, who will no doubt be putting on an air show – both are known for their above-the-lip abilities.
Carissa Moore and Seth Moniz will be team Hawaii. Moore has four world titles to her name, as well as a win at the 2018 Surf Ranch Pro.
Fellow Hawaiian Coco Ho will match up with Brazilian Filipe Toledo, who also lives in San Clemente.
Florida native Caroline Marks, who now calls San Clemente home, is matched up with Brazilian Adriano de Souza.
Pinkerton, who with Coffin will go up against Marks and de Souza in the first round, admitted she’s a bit nervous, though she competed against Marks, one of the top surfers on the World Tour, as they came up the ranks in the amateur circuit.
Pinkerton was in Australia starting the competitive year when the pandemic hit, the last time she – or any of the other surfers – were able to compete.
“It’s hard to keep your competitive momentum when there’s no competition going on, I’ve just been trying to surf as much as possible,” she said.
Pinkerton did her first contest at age 6, but really got into the amateur competing at age 8, she said. She did her first qualifying series when she was 14 and was looking forward to competing this year toward her goal of landing on the World Tour.
“It’s definitely a bummer, but if you look at it, everyone has to do the same thing,” she said. “We’re all going to make a comeback together. A break was almost super nice after traveling so much for contests. But coming back into it, I hope I can have the same momentum.”
She said she’s a bit nervous to perform in front of all the fans who will be watching surfing’s return on the live online webcast.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but it’s also very exciting to be included with the top surfers,” she said. “Hopefully it will give me a huge confidence boost for next year.”
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The teams will face-off in a head-to-head bracket, advancing through to the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals to win. Every round, each team will get four waves, consisting of two rights and two lefts. Each surfer’s best score will be combined to create the team score for that round. The team with the best score will advance to the next round.
Judges will watch and score the event remotely.
The format of the contest is different than what the pro surfers are used to and Pinkerton said she doesn’t fully understand all the rules, so she’ll just go with the flow.
“I think we just have to surf,” she said, “and have as much fun as we can.”
Source: Orange County Register