HUNTINGTON BEACH, California/USA (Monday, July 22 2019) - The World Surf League (WSL) Vans US Open of Surfing presented by Swatch is pleased to welcome some of the world's top men and women surfers back to Huntington Beach, California, beginning July 27 - August 4. "Surf City USA" proudly hosts the men and women's Qualifying Series (QS), men and women Pro Junior Tour, the Duct Tape Invitational longboard competition and Vans Stoke-O-Rama in a weeklong frenzy of surfing action and festivities for all to enjoy.
The women's QS returns to Huntington Beach for the first time since 2005 and offers 10,000 points toward Championship Tour (CT) qualification -- a first in the WSL era. Seven-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and hometown hero and defending event winner Courtney Conlogue will be joined by the likes of QS elite that have every intention of showing what they're capable of on a world stage.
Reigning World Junior Champion and San Clemente, California's own Kirra Pinkerton comes into this event as a qualification threat, currently sitting at No. 10 on the QS rankings where the Top 6 at the end of each season join the CT. Pinkerton, 16, joins the likes of fellow North America qualification hopefuls Alyssa Spencer (Carlsbad, Calif.) and former CT competitor Sage Erickson for a shot at year-changing points though must square off with international talents such as current QS No. 1 Isabella Nichols (AUS) and No. 2, former World Junior Champion, Vahine Fierro (FRA).
"Competing in Huntington is amazing since I'm pretty much surfing at home turf, it's where I had my first contest and I've surfed there so much that I'm really comfortable there," Pinkerton said. "Every contest is different and the waves may not always work for you but knowing them gives you that little bit of confidence heading into the event. Having that confidence going against the top girls is pretty key because they already have that confidence after competing for so many years. But if you show you can keep up then you end up putting a little more pressure on them than you do yourself so I'm really excited to give it my all and see what happens."
With the first QS 10,000 of the men's QS in the books following Ballito, South Africa, the CT qualification picture got its first real glance at who's in the mix and now the Huntington Beach Pier arena awaits those hopefuls. Two-time defending event winner Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) is back to represent his hometown of Huntington Beach and vie for an unprecedented three-peat Vans US Open of Surfing title while taking on the likes of fellow CT competitor and QS No. 1 Jadson Andre (BRA), and an onslaught of qualification threats Jorgann Couzinet (FRA), Nat Young (USA) and Matt Banting (AUS), both former CT competitors, and many more.
"I am so excited to go back home," said Igarashi. "I haven't been back to Huntington Beach since the first Championship Tour event in April. Just living out of a suitcase gets really tiring, but I am so used to it now. I cannot wait to go see my parents and to see my friends back in Huntington. To be able to compete in front of the crowd and the local fans is the best way to go back home. I am going to do whatever I can to win it. Even though it has nothing to do with the World Title or the Olympics, there is nothing more I want than to win it three years in a row."
The Vans US Open also presents an opportunity to shed light on the next generation of competitors and get a glimpse of what the future holds for professional surfing. San Clemente, California's, Kade Matson comes into Huntington Beach as the current No. 1 for North America after his victory in Florida earlier this year along with newcomer No. 1 Caitlin Simmers (USA). The 17-year-old Matson is currently recovering from a torn ligament in his foot but he looks to be ready for an appearance in the QS 10,000 trials heat to capitalize on a big opportunity. The Hawaii contingent have claimed back-to-back wins at the US Open Pro Junior and the mainland competitors haven't claimed the title since Griffin Colapinto's (USA) win in 2015.
"This is probably one of my favorite events of the year just being so close to home and I feel really comfortable in Huntington Beach," Matson said. "Confidence is everything there because it's a tricky wave and you have to have some knowledge on where to be in the lineup, and know how to approach it. Tearing ligaments in my foot made me realize I want to be at 100 percent at all times after being out for a month and a half and it's been a painful process. But, it's been important to remain positive knowing I have a long career ahead of me and this is only a month out of my life so I've got a good perspective."
The Vans Duct Tape Invitational and Stoke-O-Rama also return to the surfing aspect of this year's proceedings as staple events at the Vans US Open. The Duct Tape Invitational will include both men and women once again, with Honolua Blomfield (HAW) as defending event winner and is joined by the likes of eight-time event winner, and WSL Noosa Longboard Open QS 6,000 winner, Justin Quintal (USA).
"Last year was such an honor to have the women get that platform to perform and to win just felt incredible, so I'm really looking forward to coming back," Blomfield said. "I'm really thankful to Joel (Tudor) for paving the way for us and giving us the opportunity to do what we love in an arena such as Huntington Beach. The vibes are always great and there's nothing better than surfing with your friends."
The Vans US Open of Surfing begins with Vans' annual Stoke-O-Rama surf celebration on opening day, July 27. Hosted by the non-profit Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation, Stoke-O-Rama is a free, kids-only surf event featuring friendly surf sessions by age division, along with fun beach activities for local families to enjoy. Stoke-O-Rama helps to raise awareness and funds for local youth water safety and ocean education programs around the world. All the proceeds from this year's Huntington Beach Stoke-O-Rama event will be donated directly to the Huntington Beach YMCA in support of community beach activities.
The Vans US Open of Surfing presented by Swatch runs July 27 - August 4 at Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington Beach, California.