The history of Newport Beach's esteemed Surf Championships runs deep into mainline of 54th and 56th Street Jetty dating back twenty-nine years. But, since 2015, it's also played host to some of North America's top up-and-coming talents for the Men and Women's RVCA Pro Junior pres. by Jack's Surfboards and Banzai Bowls. 56th Street Jetty will once again showcase those surfers, both men and women for the first time since its inception, September 21 - 23 and provide a vital backdrop to their respective seasons.
Kirra Pinkerton has a firm grip over the No. 1 spot on the women's regional rankings though the battle for second is far from done with hardly nothing separating a handful of competitors.
Meanwhile, it's an opportunity for someone to try and break away from the pack among the men's Top 4, but also provides a chance for some to catapult themselves into the World Junior Championship conversation.
Tyler Gunter Heads Home Sitting at No. 1
The City of Newport Beach Surf Championships and RVCA Pro Junior hold a special place in Gunter's memory not only being his home break, but the Pro Junior marked his first-ever WSL win in 2016 -- nearly going back-to-back in his runner-up finish last season. This is the 18-year-old's first time sitting atop the Pro Junior regional rankings and has a big opportunity to capitalize on pulling away from the pack with a similar result.
"This event means everything to me," Gunter said. "I've grown up watching this event [Newport Beach Surf Championships] and surfing in it since I was like 6 years old. I have been waiting all year for this event [RVCA Pro Junior] and can't wait to give it everything I have to try and win."
Finish Line Draws Near for Women's No. 2
The women haven't had the shot at 56th Street Jetty just yet in competition and are a welcome addition to help add even more of a chase toward the Top 2. Pinkerton's dominant, 1,265 point lead has her all but locked into a World Junior Championship qualification spot and only leaves one slot to fight for. Current No. 2 Samantha Sibley is joined by the likes of Eva Woodland, Kayla Coscino, and Tiare Thompson -- each of whom have earned a Finals appearance this season -- as the current top contenders for that position.
"I am so happy and excited for the new opportunities for women in surfing," Sibley said. "I'm so thankful to RVCA for adding a women's event. It's so cool we get another opportunity to surf this year."
Sibley has done well to claw her way into the Top 2 for the time being and has an opportunity to capitalize on Spencer's absence once more in Newport. But, only 100 points separate that No. 2 spot from No. 7 ranked Valentina Resano and a slight hiccup could prove the difference.
Battle for the Top 4 Recommences
Following the Vans Pro Junior, a slight shakeup pushed the Top 3 down one as Gunter made his move to the top, but all four remain in the hunt with the field still chasing them. Crosby Colapinto, Eithan Osborne, and Kade Matson each have their shot at cementing themselves in those positions with a result in Newport. Each fell shy of finals day in Virginia Beach and kept the door open to No. 5 Bo Raynor all the way to No. 14 Laird Myers, numerically, with a chance for any of them to strike.
Only Osborne among the Top 4 will miss the RVCA Pro Junior and must put everything into the Live Like Zander Junior Pro to cap off the season, but remains in a good position, only dropping 280 points, heading there. However, he will have to fend off a hungry field to do so as the season comes down to wire.
The Men and Women's RVCA Pro Junior pres. by Jack's Surfboards and Banzai Bowls will run September 21 - 23, at 56th Street Jetty in Newport Beach, California.