Mark your calendars surf fans, the world’s best are set to come to town next year to battle for a world championship at Lower Trestles just south of San Clemente.
In a drastic change to professional surfing’s longtime format, the World Surf League announced Tuesday a men’s and women’s championship title event called the WSL Finals that will happen on just one day in September 2021, rather than a champ crowned based on points accumulated throughout the competitive year.
In past years, some surfers have learned of their championship wins in locker rooms or while on the sand.
The move also changes the decades-long tradition of the tour ending on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii. Now, the tour will start in Hawaii with an event at Pipeline and the addition of Sunset Beach to the tour schedule.
The change brings professional surfing back to Lower Trestles, one of the mainland’s best spots for waves, for the first time in three years since the Hurley Pro was canceled. That was a blow to local surf tourism and for fans who enjoyed trekking down to the remote, cobble-stone beach to get front-row seats to watch the world’s best up close.
“We’re excited, what a great moment for San Clemente and the entire community down there,” said Erik Logan, World Surf League CEO, based in Santa Monica. “We’re thrilled to bring the first-ever WSL finals to Lower Trestles. It’s going to be a unique format, going to go down in surfing history as the biggest day, with men and women crowned on the same day.”
The men’s and women’s World Titles will bring together the top five men and top five women – based on points accumulated throughout the season – for the new surf-off format at the high-performance wave. The WSL Finals will have a window from Sept. 8 to 17, with the contest to run on the day with the best surf conditions.
The latest announcement comes as the World Surf League attempts to change up it’s entire scheduling for the World Tour, which typically kicks off in Australia and ends with the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Hawaii.
The discussions have been happening for four or five years, but it was at last year’s Pipe Masters when Brazilians Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira matched up against each other at the nail-biting final event of the year that it became clear the sport needed one finals day, where the win would go down in the ocean, Logan said.
And when the pandemic halted surf contests around the world, it became the right time to transition to the new format, Logan said.
The 2021 World Tour is set to kick off in just a few weeks with the Maui Pro by Roxy for the women Dec. 4-15. The first event for the men’s tour is at Pipeline in Oahu on the North Shore Dec. 8-20. Then, men and women competitors will hit the water at Sunset Beach, the first time a combined men and women’s championship title has been held there since 1991.
Starting the event in Hawaii will help kick off off the year in a big way, Logan said. “Everybody wants to come out of the gates strong, we think the competition is going to be that much more exciting.”
With coronavirus concerns still lingering, fans won’t be able to gather on the beach to watch, the event will be broadcast-only. WSL has its own safety plans and has been working in conjunction with the state of Hawaii and local government agencies. With the global pandemic and the unknowns around COVID-19, WSL is focusing on the first part of the season and still working out scheduling for the later part of the tour.
After Hawaii, surfers are expected to pack their bags for California in early February with another new stop on tour: Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, the first time in more than three decades the tours have used the beefy break.
“Santa Cruz is so rich with surf history and we are so excited to be partnering with the community, excited to bring surfing back to an iconic spot in California,” Logan said.
All year, the surfers will compete at events around the world, including the addition of Teahupoo, Tahiti, to the schedule.
The finals at Lower Trestles could be a huge advantage for local surfers who grew up at the high-performance surf spot, such as San Clemente stand-outs Kolohe Andino and Griffin Colapinto, or many of the world’s top surfers who have transplanted to San Clemente and train at the high-performance wave.
“It’s a big step for us, so we’re excited… one of the things our sport doesn’t have is that world championship moment. You don’t have the World Series, watching Dodgers win it, the Super Bowl,” Logan said. “You don’t have that iconic moment you see in other sports.”
In a further attempt to help bridge the equality gap, the men and women will surf the same number of events, 10, throughout the year.
Already, surfing is one of the few professional sports that matches prize money, a change made in 2019.
“We just think surfing can be a metaphor for not only life, but a way of life,” Logan said. “The ocean provides equality for everyone.
“We can set an example for not only young girls to lean into surfing, knowing they can have a vibrant career,” he said. “But also encourage other sports to follow that lead.”
Source: Orange County Register