Woah: The 2021 WSL CT Begins In Less Than A Month!

11 Nov 2020 3 Share

The World Champ at Pipe, hard to believe we'll be right back to this in less than a month. Photo: WSL/Cestari

The World Champ at Pipe, hard to believe we'll be right back to this in less than a month. Photo: WSL/Cestari

COASTALWATCH | NEWS

Starting with Hawaii this December and ending with a World Title Showdown at Trestles next September?

You know you’re rounding the corner on Worst Year Ever Highway and heading into greener pastures off Route Phew when you find yourself jumping for joy upon seeing a WSL press release in your inbox hyping up something other than a replay of an old contest.

And this morning’s release was indeed hype-worthy. If the League has its way, in less than a month you will be watching a live webcast of a WSL Championship Tour event. Again. Just like you used to. On the Internet.

It all starts — not ends — in Hawaii. The newly instituted WSL Finals experiment will launch at the Maui Pro presented by Roxy — as the women return to Honolua Bay from December 4th-15th (changed from the previous dates of November 25th-December 6th) — and the Billabong Pipe Masters presented by Hydro Flask, where the men will return to Pipeline from December 8th-20th.

Since cancelling the 2020 Championship Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the six regional events and two specialty competitions composing the “WSL Countdown Series” between August and October in California, Australia, Brazil, France and Portugal were not widely watched contests by any means. But they did offer a good dry-run for a revamped tour. And the same COVID-19 safety protocols used in the Countdown Series will be implemented at each stop in the 2021 season. Right now, the WSL is working closely with the State of Hawaii, the counties of Honolulu and Maui, and local government agencies to implement those same protocols for every one of their broadcast-only competitions.

Steph Gilmore at perfect Honolua Bay, the first stop on the Women's WSL Championship Tour for 2021... just a couple of weeks away. Photo: WSL/Sloane

Steph Gilmore at perfect Honolua Bay, the first stop on the Women's WSL Championship Tour for 2021... just a couple of weeks away. Photo: WSL/Sloane

“Putting on an international tour amid a global pandemic is not an easy task,” said Erik Logan, WSL CEO, “but the dedication and work of the entire organisation gives us confidence that we can safely execute these competitions on behalf of our athletes, staff and the local communities.”

Here is the League’s official statement regarding the pandemic:

“The WSL has collaborated extensively with public health officials, medical experts, as well as local government agencies, to create thorough health and plans for the upcoming CT season. These plans were designed to ensure the health and safety of athletes, staff, and the surrounding community. All CT competitions will be strictly executed to follow the WSL’s health and safety procedures, which were developed based on guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and emerging best practices established by other sports leagues and broadcast-only live sports. These procedures include testing for athletes and essential staff, strict physical distancing measures, temperature checks, limited or no on-site fans, and minimal personnel on-site.”

Cool. So it’s gonna be as safe as possible. But will it be exciting?

Depends on who you ask. But since losing its prestige as California’s only Tour stop to the Surf Ranch a few years back, the original high-performance stronghold of Lower Trestles is now back on the menu… and with more prestige than ever, as the first-ever “WSL Finals” experiment will culminate right there atop the cobblestones, sometime within the September 8-17, 2021, waiting period. During peak Southern Hemi season, the men’s and women’s World Titles will be decided in a single day of competition, as the top-five men and top-five women ranked during the 2021 CT season will challenge for the greatest honour in the sport in a fresh, surf-off format.

And speaking of the 2021 CT season, the WSL has added two new tour stops: the Sunset Open at Sunset Beach, January 19-28, (the first combined men’s and women’s CT competition at Sunset since 1991 and the first Women’s CT stop on the North Shore since 2010); and the Santa Cruz Pro at Steamer Lane, February 2-12. In summation, here’s what the opening leg of the 2021 Championship Tour looks like, although all tour stops and dates are subject to change due to applicable COVID-19 related restrictions, including global travel restrictions:

1. Maui Pro presented by ROXY; Maui, Hawaii; December 4-15, 2020
2. Billabong Pipe Masters presented by Hydro Flask; Oahu, Hawaii; December 8-20, 2020
3. Sunset Open; Oahu, Hawaii; January 19-28, 2021
4. Santa Cruz Pro; Santa Cruz, California; February 2-12, 2021

It's worth noting here then that with the protocols of Covid era travel and quarantining, Australian surfers will likely have to be away from home for two and a half months over Christmas.

The WSL continues: “With the current focus on running the opening leg of the tour in the United States, additional changes to the 2021 season include the postponement of the MEO Pro Portugal until later in the season, shifting the dates for the Corona Open Gold Coast presented by Billabong to May 3-13, 2021, and moving the Oi Rio Pro presented by Corona to June 11-20, 2021. Based on the global nature of the CT and the unknowns around COVID-19, the WSL will share updates on the remaining schedule in the new year.”

“I am so excited about the WSL’s announcement to start the 2021 Championship Tour this December in Hawaii,” said reigning four-time World Champion, Carissa Moore. “Hawaii is such a big part of surfing history and culture, and there is no better place to start a season and end a challenging year on a positive note. I want to express my appreciation to everyone involved in making these events happen including the WSL and the State of Hawaii, and all the amazing fans. As we all continue to navigate these unprecedented times and adapt to a new norm, we are so grateful for your support and good vibes.”

Stay tuned for a more thorough analysis on the WSL's big announcement by Nick Carroll, coming soon

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