By Andrea Swayne
Three local women are busy making preparations to travel to China to compete in the SWATCH Girls Pro China 2012, November 21 through 25 at Wanning, Hainan Island, China.
For Dana Point professional longboard surfer Lindsey Steinriede-Engle, 27, the trip will mark her return to the venue to defend the Women’s Longboard World Champion title she won after taking equal fifth at the inaugural event in 2011.
For the other two surfers—Tory Gilkerson, 19, and Karina Rozunko, 16, both of San Clemente—the trip will mark the first time either has qualified for a shot at an Association of Surfing Professionals world title.
“I am super excited to go back to China,” Steinriede-Engle said. “It was a great event last year and life has gotten so busy I haven’t done any competitions since then. I’m looking forward to getting back into the water to compete.”
As defending champion, Steinriede-Engle says she doesn’t feel a huge amount of pressure to repeat the victory she calls “the peak of her career, so far” but said she has been training more in the days leading up to the event.
“Obviously I will do my best to win but if it doesn’t happen for me this year, I would like to see someone I respect as a surfer to take it. Also, it’s nice to have a couple of other locals there with me to represent our area,” Steinriede-Engle said, referring to Gilkerson and Rozunko.
Both Gilkerson and Rozunko say they are feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness about having qualified for their first ASP World Championship. And the fact that it is so far away, in unknown territory, adds to their trepidation.
“I’m sort of nervous but really excited to have earned a spot and to be from the same area as the current world champion is pretty cool,” Gilkerson said. “Both Karina and I look up to Lindsey and she’s already been very helpful by walking us through the whole visa process. She’s been right there to answer questions.”
Rozunko, the youngest competitor representing the U.S., agreed.
“It’s crazy to get this opportunity to surf with the world champion and see what she and the other older girls are doing,” Rozunko said. “I’m nervous, but I’ve been practicing a lot and I plan to just give it everything I’ve got, choose my waves wisely.”
Gilkerson said her strategy is similar and she will try to quell the nerves by concentrating on practicing.
Steinriede-Engle says she is happy to share her insights and experiences with the younger girls and knows just what they are feeling right now.
“Any guidance I can offer them I’m happy to give. I’d like to be someone they look up to but I think they are both experienced enough in their own right to do well,” she said.
The trio will depart for China on November 17 and are set to return November 27.