Meanwhile, the WSL faces rivals on all fronts
There is a lot happening in the world of big wave surfing as we dive headfirst into the Hawaiian season. It’s all quite heady and exhilarating, unlike the 2020 Championship Tour schedule released yesterday.
After the very obvious takeaways from the Freshwater Pro 2019, to keep the event on for the 2020 CT season is a big letdown for spectators and pro surf fans alike. It’s clear that the WSL did not really heed the feedback. The Freshwater Pro is obviously profitable, and that's the bottom line.
Nothing else in the announcement really created that much excitement. We all knew G-Land was coming back, but it’s nothing new, it’s just a return of an old (but great) event.
Keramas is gone, which is a part of the letdown. It was an amazing event, but with so many right-handers in the opening string of events on the tour, the re-introduction of G-Land does even it out a bit so that goofy-footers Medina, Ferreira, Owen Wright, Callanan, Buchan, and Dora all get a fair shake at facing the world’s best waves.
The Eddie, however, is back, and that is probably the biggest deal in the world of surfing right now. The event has the most credibility, the most prestige and worthy attention focused on it.
It has every real big wave surfer invited, without too much politics involved in the selection criteria. It is in honour of a Hawaiian legend, and it only runs when The Bay gets 20-foot Hawaiian (or 30 foot and bigger faces).
Slater is in the mix, along with Bruce Irons, Twiggy, Jamie Mitchell, Jamie O’Brien, Dorian, RCJ and John John Florence.
It is the real deal.
There are also nine female surfers in the event, which is a revelation. In 2017, the competition extended an invitation to Keala Kennelly, the first woman surfer invited, as an alternate.
This year, Kennelly is again an invitee, along with Paige Alms, Emi Erickson, and Andrea Moller. Female alternates invited this year include Bianca Valenti, Raquel Heckert, Justine Dupont, Silvia Nabuco and Laura Enever.
There is also a very popular contingent of Legends invited to compete in the event. The seven legends that will take on the Bay in the first heat of the day will also be eligible for the Hawaiian Airlines Best Wave of the Day award, with a prize of 250,000 HawaiianMiles. The seven legends invited include Derek Ho, Garrett McNamara, Jeff Clark, Mike Ho, Mike Parsons, Peter Mel and Tom Carroll.
The presser did not really elucidate on the actual sponsors, but the Eddie Aikau Foundation is running it this year, and they have alluded to ‘generous local sponsors.’
The event website includes a sponsor list of Hawaiian Airlines (airline), Salt and Air Studios (production company), Koral (production management company), Waimea Valley (conservation), Turtle Bay Resort (best accommodation), L&L Hawaii (Food, catering, luau), dtl (Hawaiian strategy studio) and Kona Brewing Company (Liquid Aloha, Big Wave Golden Ale etc).
The Eddie Aikau Invitational contest waiting period runs from December 1st, 2019 through February 29th, 2020 and an opening ceremony will be held at the Bay on December 5th.
We are also currently in the waiting period of the Red Bull Queen Of The Bay event, which runs until 21 November.
We are also currently in the waiting/competition period of the Mavericks Big Wave Awards, which runs November 1, 2019, through April 15, 2020.
All three of these big wave events/awards, being The Eddie, the Queen Of The Bay and the Mavericks Big Wave Awards -, are not part of the severely truncated WSL Big Wave Tour, which actually includes a tow event as one of two contests.
It seems the big wave surfing world, in general, is snubbing the WSL Big Wave Tour, and there is also plenty of talk of an alternate tour starting to do the rounds, as well as two other non-sanctioned events in the mix for next year. They are both big slab waves, and one of them will be a real surprise.
For many fans and spectators, including a large percentile of mainstream non-core surf fans, big wave surfing is the only thing that they can relate to, and the curtailing of the WSL Big Wave Tour is going to force eyeballs onto the other big wave tournament screens.