World Surf League overhauls calendar, opens up to surf park technology

The World Surf League (WSL) will visit the first facility utilising artificial wave technology for its 2018 season as part of a significant overhaul to the calendar for its World Championship Tour.

The addition of the WSL Surf Ranch Facility in Lemoore, California, is the headline part of the new calendar, with the League keen to open up to the possibilities opened up to the sport through the development of surf parks.

Since coming online in December 2015, the WSL Surf Ranch Facility, which has been developed by surfing legend Kelly Slater, has undergone refinement and evolution of its technology. A test event this year in September, the Future Classic, delivered positive results in terms of competitive experience and feedback from surfers training there throughout the season has encouraged the WSL to pursue an event at the facility in 2018.

The facility will now host men’s and women’s events on September 5-9. “Based on the results of our test event this year and the feedback from surfers training at the facility throughout the season, next September's event has the potential to be something special for both surfers and fans,” Sophie Goldschmidt, WSL chief executive, said. “We're only scratching the surface of how this technology can be applied and it is completely game-changing for the sport.”

Other calendar highlights for 2018 include Indonesia replacing Fiji with the Bali Pro event set for men’s and women’s events from May 27 to June 9. The world's best women’s surfers will join the men at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa on July 10-17. The calendar also sees the removal of Cascais, Portugal; and Trestles, USA, for 2018. However, the WSL stated that both markets plan to return to the schedule in the future.

“We're excited about the release of the 2018 calendar, which includes some important changes designed to ensure we continue to champion the best surfing across the world and with a view to delivering long-term investment for the sport,” Goldschmidt added.

“Indonesia is universally regarded as home to world-class waves and is a location where the League is exploring long-term opportunities for the sport. While Fiji has been a multi-year pillar of the Dream Tour and we may return in future, appropriate support from the government of Fiji is needed to bring the world's best back to Cloudbreak and Restaurants. Keramas is a fantastic venue and we are stoked to go there in 2018.

“Additionally, we can't wait to see what the world's best women surfers will bring to the canvases of Jeffreys Bay in South Africa next season, accompanying the men to the iconic South African wave. Trestles and Cascais are not on the tour in 2018, which were difficult decisions for the League due to the heritage and the welcoming communities of both – however, we'll look for opportunities to incorporate those markets into the WSL calendar at some level in seasons to come.”

The WSL is seeking to expand surfing engagement on a global basis in the lead-up to the sport’s Olympic debut at the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan.