The World Surf League steps it up to new levels.
It was in a recent interview with Twiggy Baker when the penny dropped for me. The interview took place before the Big Wave Tour had ben reformatted, and he was explaining to me that the majority of people on tour were the people who lived or surfed primarily at the breaks that were on tour.
Out of the top sixteen, there were 8 surfers from Hawaii who were consistently surfing Jaws, and there were 2 from Portugal and 1 from Basque Country who were surfing Nazaré. Below that there were another three Portuguese surfers bubbling under, with points on the board. There were also two from USA who surfed Mavericks.
The locality of events breeds winners. Those surfers who are locals or regulars at the waves of the competitions have an advantage over many.
Similarly the Hawaiians who compete in the Hawaiian World Cup at Haleiwa and the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach have a massive advantage over visiting surfers. The Ballito Pro always seems to have a local feel-good story to it as well, catapulting Mikey February onto the world tour, as well as refreshing Beyrick De Vries’ career.
So the new Challenger Series comprising a number of 10,000 events is going to do something similar. While we still have the two Hawaiian events and Ballito, as well as the Huntington Beach 10,000 and the Spanish Pantin 10,000 as well as Ericeira Portugal event, there are some fresh events on the calendar.
With seven events in total on the Challenger Series, there are two new events for now, but the goal is to have 10 events on the series, with serious points and good, equal prize-money for men and women.
Piha, New Zealand is the first new venue, and it’s a great choice with excellent waves as well as great back-up waves. Maybe the event will see a local surfer join Ricardo Christie on the tour in the near future.
Similarly, the new event in Phillip Island could bolster the depleted Australian contingent on the CT, with only six surfers currently sitting in the top 30.
What’s glaringly obvious however is that there are no Challenger Series in Brazil. The last time there was a 10,000 event in Brazil was in 2015 when they had the Quiksilver Pro Saquarema as well as the Oi HD Sao Paulo Open, as well as two 6,000 events, but if you can remember, the Brazilian economy had tanked, and surfers were not getting paid, causing an outcry from embattled competitors and a flurry of online nastiness and intolerance.
The fact of the matter is that Brazil does not really need a helping hand with CT numbers. They have 10 surfers in the top 30, and a few just underneath that are surfing extremely well right now. The Brazilians are dominating now, and the Challenger Series will see some fresh Brazilian faces coming into the CT conversation in 2021.
While the geographic spread is encouraging, the quality of waves is close to the bone in some locations, and there has been some online feedback that some of the proposed stops are a bit hit-and-miss. That will reveal itself after the first year is done, but it is more about those sweet points on offer, than chasing perfection at this stage. That comes with CT qualification, at least that’s the dream of the dream tour.
Finally, despite the fact that I really, really did not want to believe this, the Challenger Tour is already in existence as part of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) as their secondary professional tennis circuit. https://www.atptour.com/en/atp-challenger-tour
There wasn't even a clever name change, despite some big names in the WSL media team.
Also, we do need to tip our hats to Bobby Martinez, for obvious reasons.