Shock And Awe: The Official 2019 WSL Schedule!
Hot off the fucking press! Here’s the 2019 WSL World Tour.
This morning, Stab received the WSL’s 2019 Championship Tour schedule and it is rife with storylines.
See for yourself:
2019 Men’s Championship Tour Schedule:
Gold Coast Men’s Pro: April 3 – 13, 2019
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: April 17 – 27, 2019
Bali Men’s Pro: May 13 – 24, 2019
Margaret River Pro: May 27 – June 7, 2019
Oi Rio Pro: June 20 – 28, 2019
J-Bay Open: July 9 – 22, 2019
Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o: August 21 – September 1, 2019
Surf Ranch Pro: September 19 – 22, 2019
France Men’s Pro: October 3 – 13, 2019
Meo Pro Peniche: October 16 – 28, 2019
Billabong Pipe Masters: December 8 – 20, 2019
Have you absorbed this thoroughly, considered all the precursors to and ramifications of the 2019 CT schedule? Good!
Now let’s wag our chins, discussing first the biggest surprise of them all:
Despite the chaos that ensued earlier this year, the WSL has revealed that the Pipeline Masters will be back on for the 2019 season, in its regular December window.
Surely you remember the WSL’s proposed season change, wherein they’d open the year with the Pipe Masters in February, surf all the other events in an eight month window to finish at Teahupo’o in September, after which the top six surfers from each gender would compete in a “playoffs”-style event in the Mentawai Islands.
It was an interesting concept, but one that fell flat, possibly when the WSL failed to attain the February Pipe permit in catastrophic fashion.
Another rumor that affected the change was that Quiksilver, longtime sponsor of the Snapper event, was displeased with the idea of losing the season opener; there were rumours the Mountain and Wave threatened to pull their sponsorship if that was going to be the case.
Which brings us to the next 2019 schedule revelation: multiple brands have pulled the plug on CT event sponsorships.
Despite the non-major changes to the 2019 schedule, Quiksilver has still chosen to remove itself from both the Gold Coast and France events, leaving those events without primary financial backing.
Also, Corona has apparently moved on from Bali’s trash problem, leaving that event sponsorless as well.
Of 11 total (Men’s) CT events, only five (assuming the West Australian Tourism board is still on for Margaret River) of them have a primary sponsor.
And yes, you read that right: Margaret River is back on the schedule.
After all the shark-fueled terror and event cancellation that ensued this April, many believed the WSL would abandon WA for good, despite the two years left on its contract with the West Australian Tourism Board.
Recent reports indicated the WSL was looking elsewhere in WA to hold their event, perhaps in Kalbarri or Gnaraloo to the north, but after severe local backlash it appears they have backpedaled and settled on Margaret’s once again.
In an effort to avoid the salmon-based shark run that seems to happen every year in their April event window, the WSL has changed the timing of the Margaret’s event, now wedging the Keramas contest between Bells and Margies, and pushing the WA event all the way to end-of-May/early-June.
Which leads to the next point: the scheduling of the season looks a little different.
According to WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt:
Working with our many stakeholders, we’ve shifted the start of the season from March to April, increasing the offseason for the world’s best surfers to recover and continue to push the boundaries of high performance surfing, also creating a more fan-friendly condensed calendar.
Per “stakeholder” interests, Snapper will start in early April (as opposed to late-Feb/early-March as it has in the past) and then be followed promptly by Bells (as per usual).
Following that is an awkward 16-day gap between Bells and Bali, where surfers from Australia will be able to go home and regroup, but those from the U.S., Europe, or beyond will have to decide whether it’s worth going home for a few days before flying all the way back to Indo for an event the follwing week.
But according to Surfers’ Rep Ace Buchan, athletes like the new changes:
In terms of the pacing, the feedback we’ve had from a lot of the surfers is positive on the later start and longer offseason in terms of being able to prepare for the year ahead as well as breaking up the longer blocks of events into more manageable legs. I think both changes will contribute to the surfers performing at their best.
Some issues that haven’t been addressed by this new schedule are those raised by the most important man of all, Dirk Ziff, owner of the World Surf League.
In his most recent (and perhaps only?) address to the wider surfing public, Ziff listed a few of the things broken within the League, including:
Events are still longer than most good swells, and multiple lay days can be a killer for audience momentum. Imagine a basketball game that pauses at halftime, and will resume at some unknown point in the next few days. How many fans would remain engaged?
This is still going to happen in 2019 (unless the WSL decides to cut the field down significantly and/or change the competition format).
We continue to have an antiquated system for determining world champions, in which all events count the same, and points are simply added up until someone has an insurmountable lead, regardless of when that happens.
This is still going to happen in 2019 as well.
To be fair neither of these issues, nor many of the others listed in Ziff’s speech, are easy fixes. They will take significant thought and planning to resolve and surely include many hiccups along the way.
But despite all the surprising revelations listed above, perhaps the biggest surprise of them all is seeing essentially the same schedule laid out for the 2019 season.
If now is not the time for robust change, WSL, then when?
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