Kanoa Igarashi and Kirra Pinkerton Answer Call Of Duty, Win Medals Of Honor In 2022 ISA World Games - Stab Mag

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Photo: Pablo Jimenez

Kanoa Igarashi and Kirra Pinkerton Answer Call Of Duty, Win Medals Of Honor In 2022 ISA World Games

Teams Japan, USA, and France move into Victor’s Village.

features // Sep 26, 2022
Words by Christian Bowcutt
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Eight days of competition have just taken place at surfing’s trusty, mushy Coliseum. What happened?

  • Kirra Pinkerton wins Open Women’s Division for Team USA. 
  • Kanoa Igarashi wins Open Men’s Division for Team Japan.
  • Japan (men) and USA (women) clinch the extra third Olympic slot for Paris 2024.
  • Team France wins the Aloha Cup surf-relay event. 
  • Team Overall Totals: USA wins Gold, Australia takes Silver, and France grabs Bronze.
Gold medal glory. Photo: Ben Reed

The 2022 ISA World Surfing Games

In the Ancient Olympic Games, held on the Peloponnese Peninsula in “Olympia” from 776 B.C. to at least 393 A.D., the boxing competition was quite different than it is today. There were no time limits, no points, and no weight classes. Giants fought pipsqueaks and you didn’t stop til you were on the ground. The ISA World Surfing Games are unusual because they are a little like that. Yes, there are points, and time limits for that matter–– but there aren’t weight classes. You have Kolohe doing full rotations over a surfer from a newer surf nation who is still being introduced to the Art of the Cutback. 

This kind of lopsided bloodshed continues for the first few rounds of competition that follow the Opening Ceremony, which featured 50 countries pouring sand from their home beaches into one container, making a kaleidoscopic — and symbolic — display of solidarity. This year’s ceremony featured Saudi Arabian, Algerian, and Lithuanian sand for the first time. No good, earnest ceremony would be complete without local politicians and dignitaries giving each other medals, smiley hugs, and comically large (physically) checks as well — there was plenty of that.

Team Germany adds their contribution. Photo: Pablo Jimenez

But soon the talent gets distilled and the heats get progressively more stacked. Combine that with an inconsistent, long-period south swell that lazily marched its way up the coast in Eeyore-like fashion after a long, busy summer and you have some interesting upsets and tough battles.

This caused Kirra Pinkerton to have to fight through a couple of close, tough rounds in a Herculean effort –– often clinching scores in the dying minutes of the heat –– on her way to a victory in the Open Women’s Division. Coach Ryan “Simmo” Simmons said that this is “definitely the biggest win of her career” as she not only went home an ISA World Champ but unlocked a third Olympic spot for the U.S Women’s Team.

Kirra said, “Finally feeling like I got my ‘big break’. It’s been so long since I’ve had the winning feeling and the way this contest went from scratching through heats with no waves to winning the final in the end, I couldn’t ask for a better way to win a contest! I love our team, and the support we gave each other was so special.” 

By winning this event, Kirra has secured an extra female spot for Team USA in Teahupo’o 2024.

The Open Women’s Division results:

Gold: Kirra Pinkerton, USA 

Silver: Pauline Ado, France 

Bronze: Sally Fitzgibbons, Australia 

Copper: Daniella Rosas, Peru 

Kirra, looking down on her competition. Photo: Ben Reed

Kanoa’s ride to the Gold Medal for Team Japan was markedly smoother — the man won every single heat on his road to the podium. No grueling repechage rounds in windblown afternoon surf or frantic HB hopping to garnish 1 or 2 more points to survive a heat. The silver-haired operator calmly took the victory, earning a coveted third Men’s Olympic slot for Team Japan. Immediately following his heat, Kanoa said, “This week I learned a lot about myself. In surfing, you have to be so selfish, but I really learned a lot about myself as a person and how important it is to share that competitive energy with the team, to make it through heats together and eventually win as a team. We want to win as a team. There is only one time in a year where we can represent Japan as a team, and this is that one time of the year.” 

By winning this event, Kanoa has secured an extra male spot for the Japan team in Teahupo’o 2024.

The Open Men’s Division results:

Gold: Kanoa Igarashi, Japan

Silver: Rio Waida, Indonesia 

Bronze: Jackson Baker, Australia 

Copper: Guilherme Fonseca, Portugal 

(Side note: great to see surfing’s favorite mistress, Indonesia, on the podium this year through Rio’s efforts.)

Kanoa taking home the victory. And yes, that is a Bad Bunny lyric on his board. Photo: Sean Evans

The Aloha Cup surf-relay event also took place this week. Teams chose four surfers to represent the country in a 45-minute heat. Each surfer gets a maximum of two waves and must sprint and tag the next surfer after catching those two waves. There is no priority system and with time running fast, there were plenty of paddle battles and interferences to go around. Team Japan narrowly missed out on the final due to an interference call. In the end, Team France took home the Gold for this event, beret-clad and all, making Francophiles worldwide jump for joy. 

The Aloha Cup Surf-Relay results:

Gold: Team France 

Silver: Team USA

Bronze: Team Argentina 

Copper: Team Portugal 

If only we could conjure up enough enthusiasm to sprint to the water every session. Photo: Sean Evans

Kalani David Memorial Paddle Out 

There was also a Paddle Out for beloved surfer and 2012 ISA World Junior Champion, Kalani David. Friends, competitors, ISA organizers, and fans gathered in a ceremonial circle to remember Kalani’s legacy and contributions to the sport of surfing and the impact he had on the people around him. 

There was a special, sacred spirit felt by all who were there to celebrate Kalani. Photo: Ben Reed

The 2022 ISA World Surfing Games was the first stop for Olympic Qualification on the road to Paris 2024 which will be held at Teahupo’o. Many teams mentioned a need to improve their collective barrel-riding prowess in preparation for the event as it will be a far cry from the soft, stormy wedges of Tsurigasaki Beach that were featured in the Tokyo Games.


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