The World Surf League has today announced a totally revised 2021 Championship Tour, Challenger Series, and Qualifying Series. It has also confirmed that due to the continued evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, WSL is postponing or canceling all events, at all levels of competition, through to the start of July.
The WSL continues to monitor the situation and plans to make the next call in early June.
“Where and when we will run this year is still very much an open question, but we will continue to work with governments, world health authorities and our local communities on returning to the lineup,” WSL’s CEO Erik Logan offered via video today.
“We are extending the postponement of all WSL events through June,” he added. “This means the scheduled Championship Tour stop in June, the Oi Rio Pro, is officially postponed in hopes that travel conditions ease enough to run this year. Our ‘Next Call’ update for the 2020 Championship Tour season and all our events will be on June 1.”
The WSL has also announced an evolved Tours and Competitions format for 2021 covering the Championship Tour, the Challenger Series, and the Qualifying Series.
Starting in 2021 the women’s and men’s world titles will be decided in a single day of competition on the last day of the Championship Tour season. The top surfers will battle for their respective titles in a new surf-off format. This evolution has been part of a multi-year discussion and the final design is a collaboration between the surfers, partners and the WSL.
“Prior to COVID-19, we had been working hard on how we would evolve the Championship Tour, the path to the CT and all our tours in 2022 and beyond,” admitted Logan. “The more we worked on this transformation, the more we became excited and it became clear that our pause due to COVID really allowed us to see that now is the time to accelerate these changes.”
Two-time WSL Champion, Tyler Wright, said she liked the new format that raised the intensity of the entire world title chase.
“The difference is that you get to win in the water, which is huge,” she offers. “It comes down to nobody else. That kind of intensity – that kind of competitive pressure, raises the bar. It’s pretty exciting!”
“The world title being decided in the final, between two surfers in the running, is super exciting,” added WSL Surfer’s Representative, Conner Coffin. “I was glued to Pipe last year on the last day. So it’s a great moment for the sport and it’s exciting to think that from 2021 onwards that will always be how the world title is decided.”
In addition to the redesign of the Championship Tour (CT), the schedule will be updated to create distinct seasons between the CT and the Challenger Series. This update will not only provide an enhanced showcase for the surfers, but also allow those who fail to requalify through the CT the opportunity to perform on the Challenger Series and requalify for the elite CT the very next season as opposed to waiting an entire year.
“With the Challenger Series at a different time of the year you can highlight the up and comers, you can highlight who is in the Challenger Series,” Wright explains. “You can highlight what’s new, who is coming up that is fresh, who is re-qualifying and the people that drop off the CT will have an opportunity to go on and completely focus on the Challenger Series.”
Increased weight and value will also be given to regional Qualifying Series events to encourage up-and-coming surfers to develop closer to home without financially overleveraging themselves before jumping to the Challenger Series and beyond. The regional series will provide increased opportunities to celebrate regional stars, reduce economic pressure for surfers and sponsors, as well as drive media interest around those athletes.
“We’ll have more details soon but we’re really excited about what this means for surfers and surfing worldwide. We are approaching these updates and evolutions as holistically as possible,” said Logan.
“Working with our entire community, we know we are going to emerge through this pandemic with a strong, exciting platform that propels professional surfing and all surfing, forward in a positive and impactful manner.”