A new crop of young guns will be joining the 2022 Women’s ‘CT ranks next year: Twenty-one-year-old India Robinson, 17-year-old Luana Silva, 16-year-old Caitlin Simmers, 19-year-old Gabriela Bryan, and, of course, 16-year-old North Shore local Bettylou Sakura Johnson, who just won the Haleiwa Challenger.
In bumpy and semi-tricky conditions, Sakura-Johnson ripped beyond her years and outperformed 2021 World Champ and Olympic Gold Medalist Carissa Moore, making a loud statement before the rookie year ahead of her. “This is such a huge moment in my life,” Sakura Johnson told the WSL. “Just a big thanks to everyone being here, rain or sunshine, and I’m just going to have a big smile. Thank you to everyone in Haleiwa, helping me and supporting me, and I’m really happy to represent Haleiwa and do it here. I’m truly in shock.”
The 16-year-old’s calm demeanour with CT qualification looming was beyond her years as Sakura Johnson dropped an excellent 8.00 (out of a possible 10) to take the lead. Efforts from Bryan moved her into the runner-up spot over five-time WSL Champion Moore, but Sakura Johnson was out of reach after an immaculate finals day showing beginning with her Quarterfinal runner-up behind CT veteran Lakey Peterson (USA) and eventual fourth-place finisher, Robinson. Conditions tested Sakura Johnson’s ability to be patient, but she rose to the occasion in phenomenal form.
Gabriela Bryan’s (HAW) determination and powerful surfing guided her way straight into the Final with clutch performances to advance through the Quarterfinal and Semifinal bouts over Challenger Series threats and CT hopefuls. The confirmed 2022 CT Rookie came into Haleiwa wanting to finish the year strong and did just that to claim the Challenger Series rankings leader as she looks to keep her confidence heading into the HIC Pipe Pro in coming days and the Billabong Pro Pipeline to start the CT season.
“I’m so happy to win the Challenger Series and I’ve gotten so much confidence throughout the year at these events,” said Bryan. “Surfing against Carissa (Moore) multiple times definitely helped build that and she’s been one of my idols since I started surfing. I can’t wait to be on the CT next year and start it here in Hawaii.”
Moore’s powerful surfing was on full display en route to the Final with the day’s highest heat total, a 16.27 (out of a possible 20) in the Semifinals, and single-wave score of an 8.40 (out of a possible 10) in the Quarterfinals. The 5X WSL Champion and Olympic gold medalist ended qualification runs for Alyssa Spencer (USA) and Vahine Fierro (FRA) with her dominant performance in the Semifinals.
“I was just having fun out there and this is quite some weather we’re having out here today,” said Moore. “I’m stoked there’s waves left over and happy to be back in a jersey again – especially to be at home. The next generation of Hawaii women is so great and it’s really exciting that we’re going to have more of them on Tour next year.”
Australia’s Robinson came into this event with plenty of hype behind her and the 21-year-old lived up to it. A dominant showcase of her forehand attack led her to a massive Quarterfinal victory before yet another win in the Semifinals, ultimately leading to the elimination of fellow Australian threat Molly Picklum. But, despite a fourth-place finish, Robinson had the work done and will be among the world’s best in 2022.
“I can’t believe I made the Final after such a big week and it’s a dream come true,” said Robinson. “I’ve worked so hard for this and it has paid off. I’m still in shock, but wow, I can’t wait for next year.”
The next event will be the HIC Pipe Pro QS 1,000 beginning December 8 – 20 at Banzai Pipeline, North Shore, Oahu.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.