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WSL announces new “surf-off format” to decide world champ

The WSL said today that due to the continued evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are postponing or canceling all events, at all levels of competition, through the end of June and will continue to monitor the situation and make the next call in early June. 

The WSL has also announced an evolved Tours and Competitions format for 2021 covering the Championship Tour, the Challenger Series, and the Qualifying Series.

Starting in 2021 the women’s and men’s World Titles will be decided in a single day of competition on the last day of the Championship Tour season, with the top surfers battling for their respective titles in a new surf-off format. This evolution has been part of a multi-year discussion, and the final design is a collaboration between the surfers, partners, and the WSL.

Two-time WSL Champion, Tyler Wright, said, “I feel like the new format raises the intensity of the entire World Title situation. The difference is that you get to win in the water, which is huge! It comes down to nobody else, and that kind of intensity, that kind of competitive pressure, raises the bar. It’s pretty exciting!”

“The world title being decided in the final, between two surfers in the running, is super exciting,” said WSL Surfer’s Representative, Conner Coffin. “I was glued to Pipe last year on the last day. So it’s a great moment for the sport and it’s exciting to think that from 2021 onwards that will always be how the world title is decided.”

In addition to the redesign of the Championship Tour (CT), the schedule will be updated to create distinct seasons between the CT and the Challenger Series. This update will not only provide an enhanced showcase for the surfers, but also allow those who fail to requalify through the CT the opportunity to perform on the Challenger Series and requalify for the elite CT the very next season as opposed to waiting an entire year. 

“With the Challenger Series at a different time of the year you can highlight the up 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 requalifying, and the people that drop off the CT will have an opportunity to go on and completely focus on the Challenger Series,” continued Wright.

Increased weight and value will also be given to regional Qualifying Series events to encourage up-and-coming surfers to develop closer to home without financially overleveraging themselves before jumping to the Challenger Series and beyond. The regional series will provide increased opportunities to celebrate regional stars, reduce economic pressure for surfers and sponsors, as well as drive media interest around those athletes.

“We’ll have more details soon but we’re really excited about what this means for surfers and surfing worldwide. We are approaching these updates and evolutions as holistically as possible,” said Logan. “Working with our entire community, we know we are going to emerge through this pandemic with a strong, exciting platform that propels professional surfing, and all surfing, forward in a positive and impactful manner.”