WSL ANNOUNCES BIG CHANGES FOR FUTURE COMPETITION FORMAT, 2020 CHAMPIONSHIP TOUR CANCELED
Photos: @WSL starting with last: Cestari / Sloane / Grambeu / Puollenot / Dunbar / Cestari / Sloane / Wilson / Masurel
The WSL has officially canceled the 2020 Championship Tour due to the evolving nature of the pandemic. But, don't panic! The cancelation announcement came with new and exciting updates about the 2021 tour. WSL's CEO Erik Logan had announced earlier in the year a redesigned structure for the 2021 tour and competition format in a press video. The recent July 17th update provided a schedule for the 2021 tour, introduction of specialty events, and more information on the WSL Finals, a new single-day event to determine the World Champions.
In the original video released in late April Logan said:
Prior to COVID-19, we had been working hard on how we would evolve the Championship Tour, the path to the CT, and all our tours in 2022 and beyond. The more we worked on this transformation, the more we became excited and it became clear that our pause due to COVID really allowed us to see that now is the time to accelerate these changes.
Logan stated changes to 3 areas of the World Tour including the Championship Tour, the Challenger Series, and the Qualifying Series.
1. the world title, from 2021, will be decided by a surf-off.
Logan said it will be one exciting day of competition that is inspired by the Italo vs. Gabriel showdown last year at Pipeline. So, the title will not be decided by consistency throughout the season which is worrisome to some but seeding is still very much important. How well one does during the regular season will determine competition placement for the WSL Finals.
The latest update from WSL on July 17th announced that the WSL Finals will consist of 5 men and 5 women in September 2021 "at one of the world's best waves" and the schedule of the day seen down below!
2. the Challenger Series will now directly feed
into each season's CT events.
This updated format will allow those who fail to re-qualify through the CT the opportunity to perform on the Challenger Series and re-qualify on the CT the very next season instead of waiting another whole year, as stated on the WSL website. These QS events will be grouped together at the beginning of the season. The best guys and girls will then join the elite CT.
Tyler Wright commented on the changes saying:
With the Challenger Series at a different time of the year you can highlight the up-and-comers, you can highlight who is in the Challenger Series, you can highlight what's new, who is coming up that is fresh, who is re-qualifying, and the people that drop off the CT will have an opportunity to go on and completely focus on the Challenger Series.
Others have commented that this change could reduce travel costs and make for more exciting competition as well.
3. A Regional Qualifying Series will replace all lower-end competition events.
The developmental tier will all be regionally based. This gives up-and-coming surfers the chance to improve in their home-based waters. They can compete in their home arena, qualify for the Challenger Series, then have a chance at the World Tour. Logan said these changes are designed to ease travel expenses and time. They also have the potential to boost support for local surf business and organization.
The July 17th update released the schedule for the 2021 tour events. 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, as stated on the WSL website.
The Qualifying Series will run from January through the end of June 2021
The Challenger Series will then run August through December
The Championship Tour itself runs from August through September
Points from QS events that were completed in 2020 will carry over into 2021. Another exciting update is that the women will have the same amount of CT events in the 2021 season as the men. An addition to the women's circuit at Teahupo'o, Tahiti for the upcoming season will be the first time back since 2006!
The recent update also introduced what's called The WSL Countdown, a series of regional, pre-season exhibition events featuring CT surfers in the USA, Australia, France, and Portugal. The WSL Countdown gives fans a chance to witness competitive surfing during a time of restricted international travel. The WSL website states "The WSL's stringent health and safety procedures for these local events, which were developed through consultation with public health, local and state officials, have been informed by 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 events."
All events and dates are subject to change due to applicable COVID-19 related restrictions, including global travel restrictions.
For more information and updates, go to worldsurfleague.com/2021.