WSL CEO Erik Logan has officially cancelled the 2020 CT and Qualifying season citing health risks surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic and global travel restrictions. 

While the WSL walked away from any possibility of salvaging the season, it has, however, announced wholesale changes that include a start to the 2021 season in Hawaii this November and a mid-season cut off in 2022 on both the men’s and women’s CT. 

There’s been a huge shake-up of both the CT & QS for 2021 which includes event locations, adopting distinct seasons for the CT and QS respectively, and a WSL Finals series, where world titles for both men’s and women’s will be decided in a single-day event. 

The women's tour will kick off in November this year at Honolua Bay. Steph Gilmore sampling Honolua's delights. Photo: WSL/Sloane

“After careful consideration and extensive discussions with key stakeholders, we have made the decision to cancel the 2020 Championship Tour and Qualifying Series seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WSL CEO Erik Logan in a video released on WSL channels today. “While we firmly believe that surfing is amongst the sports best suited for competition to be held safely during the age of unresolved COVID, we have huge respect for the ongoing concerns of many in our community as the world works to resolve this.” 

“The 2021 tour will start in November 2020 in Maui, Hawaii for the women and in December 2020 in Oahu, Hawaii for the men, subject to the approval of the State of Hawaii and local government agencies, as well as effective protocols that allow for safe international travel. The 2021 CT season will finish with ‘The WSL Finals,’ a new single-day World Title Event in September 2021”

New Championship Tour Format for 2021 and Beyond 

 The 2021 WSL Championship Tour will see key format changes.

  • ‘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. 
  • 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, an equal number of events for the first time ever, 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.
  • Seasonality of the tour: In addition to 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 CS 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.

But the changes don’t end there. 

As of 2022, a mid-season cut will be introduced for the CT on both the men’s and women’s tours respectively. 

“In addition to the changes for 2021, a mid-season cut will be introduced for the CT in the 2022 season. 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.”

2021 Championship Tour Season*:

*All events and dates subject to change due to applicable COVID-19 related restrictions, including global travel restrictions

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

 The notable admission from the calendar is Hossegor, with the Quiksilver event scrapped from the CT and re-assigned to the Challenger Series. While it’s also disappointing not to see Cloudbreak or Trestles reinstated as CT stops, bringing back Teahupoo for the women shows the girls are willing to put it all on the line.

However, the caveat to the proposed 2021 season start lies in the fine print. 

*All events and dates subject to change due to applicable COVID-19 related restrictions, including global travel restrictions

Whether the globe has a handle on the Covid-19 pandemic in time, border restrictions ease, and global travel is back on the cards is still anyone’s guess. 

Currently, Australia is facing a wave of new Coronavirus cases with Victoria the epicentre, recording 428 new cases yesterday. Meanwhile, America is still out of control, Bali is set to reopen to tourists in September and Europe is still recovering.

The WSL can’t afford the possibility of a delayed start, or worse still, abandoning another year of pro surfing altogether. It would hurt the organisation, as well as impact the athletes – many who have already taken huge pay cuts with sponsors, and of course, let’s not forget us the fans. 

Perhaps that’s why the WSL is beta testing regional domestic events with The WSL Countdown. A series of speciality events to be held in Australia, the USA, and Europe as early as August. 

We should see a specialty 'Rumble at the Ranch' event in August. Photo: WSL/Sloane

“In the US, Surf Ranch will host Rumble at the Ranch, a special mixed-gender team format event in August,” says Logan in the presser. “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.”

There’s a lot here to unpack. 

One thing is certain, the WSL is ushering in a new era of pro surfing. And in these times of uncertainty, it feels good to have something exciting to look forward to.