Stab Magazine | So, This Is How The New WSL Format Looks

So, This Is How The New WSL Format Looks

Leaks from yesterday’s mandatory closed session: A three-month QS season and a title-decider in the Mentawais!

Words by Ashton Goggans

Yesterday, in a mandatory closed session, the WSL met with its athletes to unveil a radical new shift in professional surfing.

And the surfers – at least, those who’ve never felt a World Title beneath their belts – are less than enthused. But we must say, we love the sound of it.

In true WSL style, the lion’s share of details will be spilt via leaks. But, here’s what we’ve been told:

– Instead of crowning a champ at Pipe, the WCT’s regular season will… BEGIN in Hawaii, in February.

– The CT season will end in September. (Possibly, at Teahupoo.)

– Instead of being decided by accumulated points, the World Champ will be crowned in primetime at a specialty event, held in Indonesia and featuring only the tour’s top shelf…

– At the end of the season, the top six men and top four women will compete in an event, most likely in the Mentawais, to establish the World Champion, in what will presumably be the largest scale production event in the sport’s history.

– To win the World Championship, the sixth-ranked surfer will go against the fifth, the winner of that against fourth, and so on, until the final matchup: Whoever’s made it through will face the world ranked number one.

– The Qualifying Series will commence immediately after the title’s decided, operating in similar fashion to Minor Leagues in other pro sports, and allowing a level playing field and open schedule for CT surfers to compete and re-qualify, or train and enjoy an actual off-season.

– The QS Season will run from September through to December and end in Hawaii, presumably with the Triple Crown.

According to multiple sources, all of whom asked to remain anonymous, the new concept was met with resistance from a respectable portion of the tour. Here’s a sample:

“It’s a fucking joke,” a familiar source tells Stab. “It’s so strange. Not only that, it makes the rest of the tour feel like it’s the Qualifying Series. It diminishes it. I think the objective is to try and make it like a Superbowl, or the World Series with, like, playoffs. They’re trying their hardest to make surfing sellable as a sport. It feels elitist, like it only favours the names who are already big. John John was like, “Yeah, that’s sick.” But he’s already got a World Title. If they want to go and cherry-pick people and do specialty events – like this wavepool event, where it’s basically only people who have won World Titles – that’s fine, go and do it. But if you’re a someone who claws his way to seventh in the world and by the numbers you’re just behind number three and you don’t get a chance to go for the title, that’s bullshit. There’s a lot of good surfers out there who deserve the chance, and it just feels elitist. In the short-term, it’s pretty cool, this new direction, and I get it. But long-term, it feels like something is leaving the sport. It isn’t rebellious, it isn’t subcultural. They’re just trying so hard to sell it. But these guys are going to do what they want to do. They’re the money.”

It’s been no secret that big changes were coming down the pike for the WSL, with leadership changes and rumblings of fundamental shakeups, not to mention an as-of-yet-unannounced-but-by-all-accounts-confirmed wavepool event just weeks away.

Here’s what the WSL’s Senior Vice President of Global Identity, Dave Prodan, had to say:

“Surfing is a sport and culture born of evolution and innovation. As an organization, the WSL strives to honor this same spirit in our commitment to championing the world’s best surfing. 

We’re currently in discussion to bring exciting change to the sport with the tour calendar and the determination of the WSL Champions. We’re having these discussions with our surfers and our key stakeholders and the conversations have been very engaged and encouraging.

We look forward to releasing details when we are ready.”

Details will surely continue to drip in over the coming weeks, but no consensus has been reached yet. 

Stay tuned, we will have more breaking WSL news in a matter of hours! 


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