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WSL Unveils New Championship Tour Format For 2021

On the back of cancelling the 2020 World Championship Tour and Qualifying Series seasons, World Surf League has today unveiled a radical new format for the Championship Tour.

Tyler Wright and the rest of the women’s CT surfers will be excited to return to Tahiti in 2021. Photo: WSL/Corey Wilson

To be introduced for the 2021 season that starts at the end of 2020, the WSL Championship Tour will see key format changes.

Firstly the introduction of the “The WSL Finals”: The men’s and women’s world titles will be decided in a single-day event: The WSL Finals. The top five women and top five men following the 10-event CT season will battle for their respective titles in a new surf-off format at one of the world’s best waves.

Secondly, there will now be an equal number of women’s and men’s CT events. The 2021 CT will include 10 events each for both the women and the men. This is the first time ever WSL has had an equally number of events, with the women joining the men to surf at Teahupo’o, Tahiti, one of the world’s most iconic and demanding waves, for the first time since 2006.


The Margaret River Pro is scheduled for April 2021. Photo: WSL/Sloane

Additionally, the WSL is introducing seasonality to the tour. Along with the redesign of the CT, the schedule will be updated to create distinct seasons between the CT and the Challenger Series (CS). Starting in 2021, the Challenger Series will run from August through to December. The QS will run through to the end of June 2021 and determine who has qualified for the Challenger Series. Points from QS events that were completed in 2020 will carry over into 2021.

WSL said this evolution had been part of a multi-year discussion, and the final design was a collaboration between the athletes, partners, and the WSL.

“I’m really excited about these new format changes,” said two-time WSL Champion Tyler Wright. “As someone that has spent a lot of time out with injury and on the couch in the last few years as a professional spectator, I feel that change is good and needed. Having Tahiti come back on the schedule will be interesting and challenging. It will take us a few years to get our feet and positioning in. However, with the next generation of strong and talented women coming through I think we’ll soon have Tahiti specialists.”

Fantastic day in the channel for the crowd on finals day of the 2018 Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o. Photo: WSL/Cestari

WSL admitted that the enhancements to the 2021 CT began with the timing of the WSL Finals, causing subsequent adjustments to some tour locations. Due to optimal wave timing, the Championship Tour would no longer include Hossegor. However, the WSL, in close partnership with Quiksilver and ROXY, was committed to the region and looked forward to hosting an important Challenger Series event in France in 2021.

“The WSL format, timeline and location updates will make for a very exciting and intense 2021 tour and World Title chase,” said two-time WSL Champion John Florence. “It’s great being a part of the WSL, especially as we evolve and adapt to new challenges. I look forward to competing in this new era.”

The new format confirms the rumoured reduction in surfer numbers at CT events with a mid-season cut being introduced in 2022.

By reducing the men’s and women’s fields from 36 and 18 to 24 and 12, respectively at the season’s midway point, events can run within the most optimal swell cycles at locations like G-Land and J-Bay, as well as ensure that the stars of the sport meet head-to-head more frequently. Given the challenges around COVID-19 and the transition year in 2021, the cut will not be implemented until the 2022 season, meaning all qualifiers for the 2020 CT season will get to surf a full season when competition returns later this year.
Filipe Toledo, of Brazil, surfs at the ranch during the 2019 Freshwater Pro. The Surf Ranch will host the Rumble at the Ranch – a specialty WSL Countdown event in 2021. Photo: WSL/Kelly Cestari

Alongside the new format WSL is responding to the restricted travel environment by creating The WSL Countdown: specialty events to be held in Australia, USA and Europe.

To bring world-class competitive surfing to fans during a time of restricted international travel, the WSL will host a series of regional, pre-season exhibition events featuring CT surfers in the USA, Australia, France, and Portugal called The WSL Countdown.

In the US, Surf Ranch will host Rumble at the Ranch, a special mixed-gender team format event in August. In Australia, the Australian Grand Slam will feature strike mission events at the Gold Coast and Margaret River over the months of September and October. In France and Portugal, the Euro Surf Cup will feature regional CT stars in late September and early October.

The WSL’s stringent health and safety procedures for these local events, which were developed through consultation with public health, local and state officials, have been informed by guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organisation, and emerging best practices established by other sports leagues and broadcast-only live sports events.

These pre-season exhibition events will utilise a variety of formats.

2021 Championship Tour Season*
Shiseido Maui Pro presented by ROXY: Maui, Hawaii >> November 25 – December 6, 2020
Billabong Pipe Masters: Oahu, Hawaii >> December 8 – 20, 2020
MEO Pro Portugal: Peniche, Portugal >> February 18 – 28, 2021
Corona Open Gold Coast presented by Billabong: Queensland, Australia >> March 18 – 28, 2021
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: Victoria, Australia >> April 1 – 11, 2021
Margaret River Pro: Western Australia, Australia >> April 16 – 26, 2021
Oi Rio Pro presented by Corona: Saquarema, Brasil >> May 20 – 29, 2021
Surf Ranch Pro: California, USA >> June 10 – 13, 2021
Quiksilver Pro G-Land: Indonesia >> June 20 – 29, 2021
Corona Open J-Bay: South Africa >> July 7 – 19, 2021
Outerknown Tahiti Pro: Teahupo’o, Tahiti >> August 26 – September 6, 2021
The WSL Finals: Location TBD >> September 8 – 16, 2021
* All events and dates subject to change due to applicable COVID-19 related restrictions, including global travel restrictions.

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