Kelly Slater, Steph Gilmore & 37 CT Surfers Set To Surf Snapper For The First Challenger Series Event - Stab Mag
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How many generations of surfers will be able to say they surfed against Kelly? The young bucks get a chance to graze the GOAT paddock at Snapper. Photo by WSL

Kelly Slater, Steph Gilmore & 37 CT Surfers Set To Surf Snapper For The First Challenger Series Event

Double-dipping but for very different reasons.

features // Apr 19, 2022
Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Gold Coast Pro will run from 7-12 May and see 39 CTers in the draw at Snapper. Big names in the mix include: Kelly Slater, Steph Gilmore, Kolohe Andino, Griffin Colapinto, Tyler Wright, and Tatiana Weston-Webb. What’s interesting is that the majority of CT surfers seeded into the event are currently not below the mid-year cut (MYC). Here’s why they’re competing. 

13/25 of the male and 8/14 of the female CT seeds entered in the Snapper event are currently over the MYC. So like, why bother? Turns out there’s (at least) three reasons for this. 

  1. As we saw at Bells, CTers are eggy at the moment and double-dipping here is insurance that if things go south in WA and they don’t make the cutoff, they haven’t handicapped their requalification campaigns by missing the first CS event of the season.
  2. Competing in the Snapper CS is now a part of fulfilling a contract obligation with the WSL whereby CT surfers are required to compete in a minimum number of CS events each season* 
  3. How often do you get to surf Snapper with three other people out?

In the petition sent to the WSL signed by 29 CT (out of 51) surfers, this* specific contract clause was raised as a big concern. ‘Now, having the CT Surfers obliged to compete also in CS events, is resulting in “event congestion” for many athletes, who have to compete in back-to-back CT and CS events, potentially adversely affecting their preparation for remaining CT events,’ read the document.

Robbo liked what the petition was about. Photo by WSL

Asking CT surfers to participate in a minimal quota of CS events is part of the WSL’s restructuring plan drafted in 2020 intended to increase the tour’s commercial viability. “The tour redesign… drives fan engagement with strong narratives for each event, thereby increasing the value of our event to sponsors, allowing us to drive more revenue so we can continue to invest in the platform of the world’s best surfing – in all of you,” wrote WSL CEO Erik Logan in his response. In other words, having CT surfers in the CS brings viewers, money and clout to CS events which, historically, have had pretty poor engagement. It’s also a chance for emerging talent to see how they fare against the top dogs while (hopefully) qualifying for the big leagues. 

Whether you love or hate the format changes, Erik has been transparent about the direction in which the WSL is pushing competitive surfing. He is telling the surf world that the WSL’s ultimate goal is to become profitable by cutting the fat wherever possible so that greater benefits will accrue to a smaller number of people, including surfers talented and lucky enough to make and stay on the CT. The trade off for a more streamlined CT is that the WSL is, willingly, brutalizing the competitive environment and redefining what it means to be a ‘professional surfer’. The WSL doesn’t want to foot the bill for the dream tour anymore, they want the top 0.001% to be really well-compensated for performing in a high-stress occupation in better waves and at the same time, turn a buck themselves. We saw that at Bells, legitimate, relatable stress, and lots of high-performance. The numbers speak for themselves, Bells on day two was watched by 35% more people than the last time it ran.

Is that a good thing? I don’t know but it is more entertaining.  

Having to compete at Snapper really isn’t the worst thing. Photo by WSL

The Gold Coast event will comprise CT surfers, CT replacements, regional QS qualifiers, event wildcards, and tours and competition wildcards. In the men’s bracket there will be 96 surfers in total, and the eventual winner will need to advance through six heats before taking out the final. On the women’s side, there will be 64 surfers and the eventual winner will need to advance through five heats before taking out the final. In other words, whoever wins this will need a lot of grit. The last time the Snapper event ran was in 2019 as a CT where Italo Ferreira and Caroline Marks took top honors. 

Final note: This is an interesting time in competitive surfing. The WSL is giving the tree a real shake and some people like it and some are pretty pissed. Personally, I’m indifferent and find those without skin in the game losing their shit to be rather amusing. Surfing is not just what the WSL chooses to broadcast and you can tune out if you don’t like it. The WSL won’t continue the MYC if it doesn’t function as intended, but for now there is “zero chance” they will cave to pressure. It’s a high-risk gamble and this could blow up in their face or pay-off significantly down the track.

Moral of the story: Don’t forget to surf.

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