Is The Drug Aware Pro Endangered?
Perhaps to make room for a permanent wave pool event.
Here’s a familiar canard brought back to light. Margaret River’s place on the world tour may be in jeopardy as the governing body of the WSL is considering axing it off future tour schedules, a byproduct of the WSL considering downsizing the Oz leg of the tour in general. A rumour that’s been touched on multiple times, especially as the WSL’s event licenses are up for renewal this year.
The loss of an event from the Oz leg would likely pit the Drug Aware Pro against the Rip Curl Pro, Bells, Australia’s oldest surfing contest. Beginning in 1973 with a Michael Peterson win, Bells has struggled for wave quality in recent years with the event window falling just outside the ideal swell and wind season. And while event organisers have toyed with the idea of moving the contest to nearby Winkipop, they are concerned the move would negatively affect audience experience. As Winkipop is located in front of a sheer cliff.
And Marg’s, despite offering three different breaks — The Box, North Point, and Main Break — has always been viewed as futile and somewhat transient on the WSL’s radar. A result of erratic conditions and organisational difficulties on account of its comparatively remote location.
Also, prior to the formation of the WSL, the ASP maintained that no country should have more than two world tour events. So while the West Oz stop is relatively fresh, and has been largely welcomed by both viewers and competitors alike; with Bells and Snapper being traditional staples, its presence is anomalous.
Many surfers, such as John John Florence and Stephanie Gilmore, are speaking out about the stop’s potential removal. Voicing their support contrary to speculations.
“It’s definitely one of the events with the most variety of waves that allows us to surf in all conditions,” John, who was runner-up in the 2015 installation of the event, told ABC. “It’s one of my favourite places to come to on the world tour.”
“This is a dream destination for surfers who love adventure,” Steph added in. “To me, this area really represents authentic Australia. To see the WSL and local government commit to making the event as mobile as it is (remember yesterday’s action at North Point?), I think that that’s a really big point for everyone to stop and think, ‘OK, this event should stay.’”
Locals aren’t too happy with the thought of Marg’s being abolished, either. As it provides a welcome boost to the region’s economy, which is largely seasonal and tourism-dependent.
WA shaper John Dutton says the event ushers in the sharpest rise in business for him annually. “It’s all systems go, and you’ve got to be on hand 24 hours a day because you never know who will rock up wanting a board fixed,” he told ABC.
“One day it’ll be Kelly Slater and next it’s John John Florence. It’s good to see them because you see them on television and they seem like pretty nice guys, and when they come in here you find out who they actually are.”
WSL commissioner Kieren Perrow said that, while discussions are currently underway with local governments, communities and Surfing WA, a timetable for the 2018 season is yet to be finalised. More than likely nothing will be officially released until November, when the WSL normally publishes its schedule for the following year.
Aforementioned, this discussion has occurred numerous times previously. However, what makes this round of debate particularly interesting is the fact that it’s resurfacing after rumours of a possible WSL-sanctioned specialty wave pool event at Kelly Slater’s surf ranch in Lemoore, California have been echoing. With eyes set on the event being held this upcoming August.
Should the wave pool event be a running success (if it ends up even being held), then it’d be interesting to see the dynamic between Margaret River, Bells, and Lemoore. While disappointing to some, it wouldn’t be surprising for an Australian spot to be substituted for the latter location in the future.
But, then again, even when you think you have something on lock the expected and, depending on your level of pessimism, inevitable can always happen. So with that, here’s to having a concrete idea when the 2018 schedule is released in November.
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