Will we see pro surfing in 2020 after all?
The WSL is not holding back on their plans to start the 2021 season in Hawaii this November. In July, WSL CEO Erik Logan officially cancelled the 2020 CT and QS seasons citing COVID-19 pandemic health risks and global travel restrictions.
News of a revamped Tour in 2021 was also part of the July announcement. The 2021 season would commence in Hawaii and involve a mid-season cut off in 2022 on both the men’s and women’s CT.
Event locations were switched up along with distinct seasons for the CT and QS respectively. The most exciting change was the inclusion of a WSL Finals series, where world titles for both men’s and women’s will be decided in a single-day event.
While the WSL walked away from any possibility of salvaging the 2020 season they did make good on their promise to deliver speciality events at Straddie, Brazil, and the Ranch to fill the void. Some were more memorable than others.
According to one WSL source, the viewership of the Straddie event exceeded everyone’s expectations. Views were on par with the last Big Wave World Tour event at Jaws with over 1.5 million people tuning in over the two days.
And despite global cases of COVID-19 on the rise, particularly in the United States, the WSL remains bullish about kicking off their new Tour this November in Hawaii.
There are rumours that trophies for the Pipe Masters have been commissioned and the WSL brass have already reached out to the pros ahead of the Hawaiian winter.
In Australia, football codes have set the example that the show must go on.
Both the NRL and AFL brokered deals with the state government, adopting whatever contingencies were required to avoid the health risks associated with a potential COVID-19 outbreak. Travel bubbles were created, players and staff were routinely tested and quarantined if compromised.
Expect the same scenario for pro surfers when they hit Hawaii in just over four weeks.
And it will be a shock to the system given the proposed calendar of events.
The pros will be required to be on the road for almost three months when you look at the WSL schedule.
The first event kicks off for the women’s CT in Maui, November 25, then the Pipe Masters for the men, December 8 with a rumoured event at Sunset also in December.
Usually, the pros travel back to Australia or the US mainland for Christmas and New Year’s Eve but this year have been told they will be required to remain in Hawaii and travel directly to Europe for the next CT event in Portugal.
New rumoured protocols also mean each surfer’s entourage will be slimmed down to one member only. The request has already ruffled the feathers of a few CT pros.
For those who are accustomed to travel with extended family or prefer to bounce home between events, such luxuries will have to be forgotten if they want to be counted.
For many CT guys and gals, 2020 has been one long holiday. Many have cherished spending their first full southern Hemi winter at home in decades. For others, sponsors have re-negotiated contracts and there’s been a lot of free time to ponder one’s pro surfing future.
Back in July, we said the WSL couldn’t afford the possibility of a delayed start, or worse still, abandoning another year of pro surfing altogether. It would hurt the organisation, and potentially jeopardise Dirk Ziff’s commitment to bankrolling the whole thing.
For pro surfing to have a future the WSL will need to pull out all the stops and the pros to be all in to make it work. The sideshow of next season’s travelling CT circus might be just as entertaining as the main act.