16-year-old Kirra Pinkerton surfed with poise and composure beyond her years, chasing down scores in the dying minutes in each of her Finals Day heats. In the Final, Pinkerton held a strong lead for the first half of the match up until Tomoda-Bannert found a perfect left which she smashed 4 massive turns on. The judges loved the young Hawaiian's commitment and awarded her an 8.20, leaving Pinkerton to yet again chase an almost excellent score. With less than 2 minutes left on the clock, Pinkerton also found a left and got to work on her backhand to snatch back the lead. Tomoda-Bannert had one more shot before the buzzer sounded but it wasn't enough, leaving the young San Clemente native to claim her maiden World title.
"This hasn't really sunk in yet so I don't even know if this is real," Pinkerton said. "My goal when I came to this event was to win it so I'm pretty proud that I got here. It's been a really intense day today as there were so many close heats I didn't think I'd make. I've had such an amazing time here in Taiwan, it's a beautiful coastline and the waves have been so fun, really similar to my home around San Clemente so it really suited me."
Pinkerton had a stellar competitive season, winning the WSL North America Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) thanks to two event wins, a runner-up and an equal fifth place. However, it was today at Jinzun Harbour that Pinkerton took the win of her career.
"This has been an amazing year with some good results and plenty of experiences on the JQS and QS around the world. This is definitely the highlight of my career. To be a WSL World Champion feels amazing."
Although Keala Tomoda-Bannert fell just short at the end of the Final, she had Pinkerton on the ropes until the dying seconds and dominated her way into the last heat of the event. Tomoda-Bannert qualified for the WJC after a win at the Sunset Pro Junior earlier in the year. This finish to her 2018 season has opened up endless opportunities for the young Hawaiian who is still only 16 years old.
"I'm so stoked to have made it to the final of the World Junior Championships," Tomoda-Bannert said. "I do wish I surfed that last wave a little better and got the score but it's all good. Kirra and I have had plenty of battles over the year so I knew what I was in for. We are both really good on our backhands so it was always going to be about the lefts. I've loved my first time in Taiwan -- It reminds me of home in Hawaii with the big green mountains and warm weather. After this result, I'm hoping to start to focus on the Qualifying Series next year and hope I can take some confidence from this."
On her way to the final, Tomoda-Bannert took down Australian title hopeful Zahli Kelly in Semifinal 2. Kelly, who took out the WSL Australia Oceania JQS, was looking like she was destined for a spot in the final with epic performances all event. Unfortunately, she couldn't overcome a rampaging Keala Tomoda-Bannert and finishes her 2018 WJC campaign in equal third place.
Pinkerton had to take down fellow Californian Samantha Sibley in her Semifinal which was no easy feat, with Sibley posting some of the highest waves and heat totals throughout the event.
With excellent conditions continuing throughout the day at Jinzun Harbour, event organisers were able to run through Heats 1 to 6 of Men's round 3. Top seeds faired well with Samuel Pupo, Kauli Vaast, Eithan Osborne and Kehu Butler advancing while So-Cal surfer Cole Houshmand went down to Cole Alves.