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World Surf League season called off, new format unveiled for 2021

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The World Surf League has called off the 2020 season in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic and unveiled a new format for the 2021 campaign.

This year’s World Championship Tour (WCT) had been scheduled to start in March and run through until December but no events were able to be held amid the ongoing health crisis.

“After careful consideration and extensive discussions with key stakeholders, we have made the decision to cancel the 2020 Championship Tour and Qualifying Series seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” WSL chief executive Erik Logan said in a statement.

“While we firmly believe that surfing is amongst the sports best suited for competition to be held safely during the age of unresolved Covid, we have huge respect for the ongoing concerns of many in our community as the world works to resolve this,” Logan added.

The 2021 season is now scheduled to start in November in Hawaii and finish in September 2021. For the first time, the WCT will feature an equal number of women’s and men’s events.

Notably, the women will now join the men at Teahupo’o, Tahiti, which will be the site for surfing at the 2024 Summer Olympics, which is otherwise being held in Paris, France.

Other key format changes include the introduction of ‘The WSL Finals’. Following the 10-event WCT season, the world surfing champions will be crowed at a single-day event featuring the top five ranked men and women. Previously, champions in the elite series were determined based on accumulated points.

Meanwhile, a mid-season cut will be introduced for the 2022 WCT season, which will reduce the men’s field from 36 to 24 and the women’s field from 18 to 12. This is designed to ensure that the stars of the sport meet head-to-head more frequently.

Ahead of the November restart, a series of regional, pre-season exhibition events featuring WCT surfers in the USA, Australia, France, and Portugal will be staged.

“I’m really excited about these new format changes,” said two-time WSL champion Tyler Wright. “As someone that has spent a lot of time out with injury and on the couch in the last few years as a professional spectator, I feel that change is good and needed. Having Tahiti come back on the schedule will be interesting and challenging. It will take us a few years to get our feet and positioning in. However, with the next generation of strong and talented women coming through I think we’ll soon have Tahiti specialists.”