Stab Magazine | Surfers Vote To Change CT Competition Format In 2019

Surfers Vote To Change CT Competition Format In 2019

Gossip Girl reveals what the surfers unanimously decided.

news // Dec 9, 2018
Words by Gossip Girl.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

According to notes from the WSL/World Professional Surfers (WPS)* meeting this past October, Championship Tour surfers have voted unanimously to change the WSL’s competition format.

Here’s what it looks like (for the men**):

  • In Round 1, there will still be 12 three-man heats. Instead of the top single surfer in each heat advancing directly to Round 3, surfers who place first and second will skip Round 2 and go directly into Round 3.

  • Surfers who placed third in Round 1 (12 surfers in total) will surf in four three-man Round 2 heats, from which only the third place surfer will be eliminated (four surfers in total). With two Rounds completed, there will still be 32 surfers left in the draw.

  • Round 3 will consist of 16 two-man heats which are single-elimination.

  • Round 4 will consist of eight two-man heats which are also single-elimination.

  • This trend continues until there are only two surfers remaining – the “final”.


Will Slater be around to see these rule changes? Photo: WSL

So what are the major takeaways?

1. The new format will not add or subtract any time from current CT competitions. The Men’s CT currently needs 47 heats to finish an event. With the new system, they’ll also need 47. One of the WSL’s biggest issues (both financially and fan engagement-wise) is the unreasonable duration of CT events (five days minimum to run a combined men’s/women’s event). With this in mind, it’s surprising that they didn’t use this re-formatting opportunity to lop some hours off the spread. But maybe that’s because…

2. The surfers want a higher chance of survival in early rounds. With only four eliminations after the first two rounds of competition (in comparison to the current number of eliminations at that point: 12), it’s clear that the surfers – who proposed this format change – want more chances to “stay alive” in CT events. According to the WPS, this is to ensure that every surfer gets the opportunity to compete in optimal conditions. In reality, if the WSL had less heats to run, they wouldn’t be forced to throw people out in such poor conditions on a regular basis. But nobody likes losing, so if the surfers have the ability to earn themselves an easier Round 3 berth through a simple vote (while not adding any time to the current event structure), of course they’re gonna take it.  

3. There will be a better-defined path to the final. The current competition model, which has Round 4 as a three-man heat, makes very little sense to the lay viewer. By creating a system that begets 16 two-man heats, which can be whittled down to one clear final in a linear fashion, is much more logical to comprehend. In this way, the surfers have objectively improved upon the current CT format.


We’d imagine Medina is indifferent to such pedestrian rule changes. He’ll reach the finals regardless of pathway. Photo: WSL

Because a majority of CT surfers (27) were in the room to vote on this initiative, and because all voted in favor of the format change, this new system will officially be implemented in 2019. 

And what do you think of that?



*The WPS is the Surfers’ Union, led by CT surfers Ace Buchan and Sage Erickson.

** The women’s system is identical but with half the number of competitors/heats


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