Seismic generational shifts don't come around in surfing all that often. There was the "Bustin' Down The Door" era in the '70s in which the Aussies stormed the North Shore. There was Kelly Slater and the "Momentum Generation" in the '90s. Mick Fanning and the "Coolie Kids" upped the ante in the early 2000s. And, of course, there was Lisa Andersen and the Roxy Revolution.
With the exception of Lisa and a few other sparse, scattered examples over the years, for the most part, these generational shifts have been male driven. That's about to change. In a very special, and potentially historic, moment, we're seeing surfing's future play out before our eyes. This October, we've watched as a handful of the world's best up-and-coming young women got together for a trip to the Mentawais and wrote their names in the sand as the next hyper-talented group of surfers intent on shaking the surf world to its foundation.
Kirra Pinkerton, Izzi Gomez, Bettylou Sakura Johnson, Bella Kenworthy, Caitlin Simmers, Erin Brooks, Sierra Kerr, Bela Nalu and Luana Silva all landed in Indo last month, and their respective performances can't, and shouldn't, be ignored.
Scoring epic surf at Kandui and surrounding spots, from barrel riding to aerial maneuvers to new sponsorships, this Mentawais mission might just have been the biggest surf trip of 2020. Here are just a few of the standout moments that made this adventure so special:
The Wave of Kirra's Life
There are so many instances in surfing where one wave has made all the difference in a surfer's career, and Kirra's bomb at Bank Vaults may just be that for her. Dropping into a massive right-hand barrel, coming out behind the spit with her hands above her head in amazement, it was a defining moment for her.
"Wasn't easy out there, two broken leashes right away. Then I broke my favorite board, making me take out a board I've never tried before," wrote Pinkerton on Instagram. "Paddled out and caught two waves to warm up before catching the wave of my life! Didn't go back out after that wave, I just sat in the water next to the boat and cried."
At just 18 years old, she's grown up in San Clemente, an integral figure in the hyper-talented hot bed of American surfing. She claimed the 2018 Junior Championship at the Taiwan Open of Surfing and was sitting in second on the 2020 Qualifying Series leaderboard before the pandemic derailed things. Kirra's setting the pace for this next generation of girls, whether it's through her competitive savvy, or in this case, charging waves of consequence with style and grace. Plus, she can rip a single-fin.
Sierra Kerr Signs With Volcom
We've been seeing big things from 13-year-old phenom Sierra Kerr for awhile now. Daughter of Championship Tour vet Josh Kerr, she has been spending an ample amount of time at the wave pool in Waco, Texas, dialing in her air game. Throughout her Mentawais trip, Sierra's been busting aerial maneuvers left and right, showing the progress that this next generation is making for the sport.
But up until this point, Sierra's been doing all her shredding without a sticker on the nose of her board. That just changed as she announced she's inked a deal with Volcom. Joining the likes of Coco Ho and Moana Jones, we can't wait to see where this relationship goes. There hasn't been a lot of big sponsorship news during the Covid era, which makes this deal all the more impressive and a really positive sign for the impact Sierra and her friends are expected to have in the years to come.
Bella Kenworthy Scores Big
Another member of this new young women's momentum crew is Bella Kenworthy. Another 13-year-old from San Clemente, Bella first garnered attention thanks to her impressive abilities on a skateboard. She absolutely rips in the park. The oldest of five kids, the family is a full-on, surf-stoked crew of frothers and Bella's led the way for them in the water too.
She has been pushing herself above the lip long before she even reached double digits, and this surf trip to the Mentawais has helped get her out of her comfort zone and into some serious, all-time Indo caverns.
"I got this one barrel that was so fun, all the girls were cheering me on while I was in the barrel," Bella told the WSL. "There's nothing better than surfing great waves with your friends."
Erin Brooks Never Gives Up
Unfortunately, Erin Brooks suffered a head injury that kept her out of the water for a couple of days on this trip. After some recovery time, she was able to join her peers in the lineup, letting nothing stop her as she got herself over the ledge on some seriously heavy waves.
"The best part of this trip was surfing with some of the best girls in the world and getting to know them better," said Erin. "All the girls on this trip are so talented and I hope we can do a trip together again soon."
Deep In The Barrel With Sakura Johnson
And then there was Bettylou Sakura Johnson, who's showed the world that her technical barrel riding abilities have blossomed well beyond her years. At just 15 years old, she is confident in large surf around the world, whether it is the North Shore of Oahu or Tahiti, where she earned a win at the 2020 at the Papara Pro Junior Tahiti.
The future is wide open for all of these amazingly talented surfers. They've already been surfing together, and against one another, for years now. But collectively, they're just getting started.
We can't wait to see where they take surfing once more travel restrictions loosen, full-time competition resumes and they're able to apply what they've been working on to the heat of battle.