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WSL Dumps J-Bay, Ranch, Adds In Fiji, Perseveres With Trestles

World Surf League announces the schedule for the 2024 Championship Tour (CT), with J-Bay and Surf Ranch dropped to make room for the Olympics, while Cloudbreak, Fiji, makes a welcome return.

The calendar will continue to showcase a combined women’s and men’s schedule featuring nine regular-season events, with the mid-season cut, after event 5 of the CT in Margaret River, Australia, remaining intact, along with the WSL Finals, to be held at Trestles.

The Tahiti Pro moves to May to allow time ahead of the Olympics. Photo: WSL/Damien Poullenot

With the Olympic Games Paris 2024 taking place from July 27 to August 5, 2024, a break has been added to the schedule to allow time for qualified athletes to travel to Tahiti ahead of the Games. WSL states that “the line-up will be closed for Olympic athletes to practice”, although we’re not quite sure how the locals will feel about that when a few decent swells squeeze up from the Southern Ocean.

This break means J-Bay and Surf Ranch get the axe this season. Additionally, the CT event in Tahiti has been moved earlier to May to accommodate the Olympics. It will be the last opportunity to watch the world’s best surfers in competition at Teahupo’o ahead of the Games.

The Surf Ranch and J-Bay get the chop for 2024. Photo: WSL/Kelly Cestari

“2024 is set to be a big year for surfing, and our schedule is designed to support that,” said Jessi Miley-Dyer, WSL Chief of Sport. “The Olympic Games represents one of the biggest stages in the world, and we want our surfers to have the opportunity to perform at their best, which is why we’ve instituted the scheduled break and updated CT dates in 2024.”

Fiji’s rich culture will add to the Fiji Pro.

2024 will also see Fiji return to the schedule for the first time since 2017 as the final stop of the regular season. The return of the Fiji Pro is thanks to a three-year partnership between the WSL and the Fiji Government.

“I’m stoked that we’re bringing Fiji back,” ,” said Miley-Dyer. “It’s such an iconic wave, and it’s the perfect place to test our surfers as they battle to secure their place in the WSL Final 5.”

Andrew Stark, WSL APAC President, said this was an outstanding result for the WSL Championship Tour.

“We are absolutely thrilled and sincerely thankful to partner with the Fiji Government to bring the event back for 2024,” said Stark. “We look forward to watching the world’s best take on the infamous Cloudbreak next August. We are also truly excited to work with the Fijian people and local communities to create a lasting impact in Fiji”.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Hon. Viliame Gavoka, added that Fiji and its tourism industry was excited to see the Fiji Pro return.

“Fiji has always been a special place for a lot of reasons,” said Hon. Gavoka.

 “For some, it’s our hospitality; for others, it’s our natural environment or culture. In this case, it’s our renowned oceans and surf. This event not only highlights Fiji as a premier surfing destination, but also opens up opportunities for surfers to relish arguably the best surf breaks in the world. So, we look forward to Fiji Pro returning for the next three years.”

The Championship Tour got its first taste of Fiji’s world-class lefts between 1999 and 2008 when it first ran.

It then returned in 2012 and ran through 2017. Over these years, 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater won the event a record four times.

“I’m so excited to hear we have the contest back at Cloudbreak,” Slater said. “All the surfers on tour who surfed in Fiji have been missing it, and everybody who never got a chance to surf it is so excited to now have the chance. The whole surfing world has been missing it, so I want to say a massive ‘vinaka vakalevu’ (thank you very much) for having us back; I can’t wait.”

Pipeline, Hawaii will always be the ultimate proving ground. Photo: WSL/Tony Heff

For 2024, the WSL Finals will return to Lower Trestles in San Clemente, California, where the men’s and women’s Top 5 surfers will face off for the World Titles in the one-day, winner-take-all format. The waiting period will run from September 6 to 14, 2024.

This is the bit we don’t get. Trestles is a yawn-fest. No offence to the deserving World Champions who have been crowned there (and, yes Steph Gilmore’s six back-to-back heats to win a title was incredible), but we’ve seen more exciting local boardriders ladders than this year’s WSL Final. Trestles just doesn’t have anywhere near the mana of a finals showdown at Pipeline. We miss that buzz. That ultimate proving ground at the very heart of surfing’s roots.

Regradless, WSL is committed to Trestles and the batch-cooked, made for resale, production that is the one-day Final 5. The numbers from this year’s event suggest they’re not even considering a rethink.

According the WSL, the September 9 WSL Finals of 2023 shattered the record for the most-watched day of professional surfing in WSL history. With 10.7 million video views on the single day, the WSL surpassed the 2022 viewership numbers by 29%. The competition was also distributed via the WSL’s linear broadcast partners, whose audiences elevated the viewership even further. For example, viewership on Globo/SporTV, the WSL’s broadcast partner in Brazil, totaled over one million viewers, an increase of 16% from 2022. In the lead-up to the competition, the WSL delivered 25 million video-on-demand views, marking a 58% increase from the previous year.

So, with numbers like that Trestles probably won’t be going anywhere.

2024 WSL Championship Tour Schedule

Banzai Pipeline, Hawaii, USA: January 29 – February 10
Sunset Beach, Hawaii, USA: February 12 – 23
Peniche, Portugal: March 6 – 16
Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia: March 26 – April 5
Margaret River, Western Australia, Australia: April 11 – 21

Mid-season Cut: 36-man and 18-woman fields reduced to 24-man and 12-woman fields.

Teahupo’o, Tahiti, French Polynesia: May 22 – 31
Punta Roca, El Salvador: June 6 – 15
Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: June 22 – 30

2024 Paris Olympic Games: July 26 – August 11 (Surfing scheduled between July 27 – August 5)

Cloudbreak, Fiji: August 20 – 29

WSL Final 5 determined to battle for the men’s and women’s World Titles.

WSL Finals, Lower Trestles, San Clemente, California, USA: September 6 – 14

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