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Welcome Back

Last updated November 14, 2020 by Balyn McDonald

After a prolonged hiatus, the WSL men’s and women’s tours are stretching on the beach in preparation for a re-launch.

In any regular season, the Billabong Pipe Masters and Roxy Maui Pro would serve as the championship crescendos. They represent the jewels in the WSL’s world title crowns where, when the conditions and ratings combine, the world’s best throw down in one final grab for the championship trophy. Their very scheduling conjures up memories of countless world title and requalification scenarios, where every round could potentially make or break the spirits of the tour elite.

Instead, like many things in 2020, they now represent the beginning of a new paradigm. By launching rather than culminating in Hawaii this 2020/21 season, the WSL will ensure there is no tour final in Hawaii for the first time in 27 years for the men (Narrabeen, 1994) and 8 years for the women (Portugal, 2013).

It’s just the first of many wholesale changes.

The new look 2020/21 tour will see both men and women competing at the Sunset Open in January. It’s the first championship event for the men at Sunset since the truncated 2001 season (won by Miles Padaca). For the women, it’s the first since 2010 (won by Tyler Wright, for those playing at home).

In February, Steamer Lane will test abilities and wetsuits alike at the Santa Cruz Pro. The men were last here for at tour event at the one-off Coldwater Classic in 2012, and before that in a brief tour stint from 1988-1990. The women will be making their Lane tour debut.

After Santa Cruz, the WSL has penciled in a tentative event at Portugal (the current schedule says ‘postponed’ at time of writing). Interestingly, if the covid-19 dangers of Poprtugal continue to prevent the MEO Pro from running, it would be the first time that a world tour has been held without any events In Europe in two decades (again, 2001).

The tour then sees the men and women revisiting the familiar-but-reordered Australian leg of Bells, Margaret River and the Gold Coast respectively from April through May.

G-Land is next, but with a TBD date at this stage. Jack Robinson will surely be watching that one closely.

The run home features modern tour regulars in Brazil’s Saquarema, South Africa’s J Bay, the continued experiment of Kelly’s pool, and the welcome roar of Tahiti’s Teahupo’o.

So far, so good, right? Well, this is where it gets interesting. Or controversial. Or ridiculous.

The top 5 surfers from each of the tours after Tahiti will be go behind the velvet rope to an invite-only season decider. Until this week, the venue for the WSL’s much-touted, one-day, winner-take-all finals event has been a mystery.

Is it a brand new destination that stokes the fires of our imagination with it’s quality and consistency? Somewhere in the remote Indian or South Pacific oceans? A place so fresh and full of promise that it would be worthy of the most significant change to our tour scheduling in decades?

In short: No.

The long version: Hell, no.

The world title will be held at a little-known break called Trestles. A spot so scintillating that it dropped off the world tour after 2017 to be replaced by a wave pool.

So, in September 2021, the oft-cliched ‘most high-performance wave in the world’ will encourage the top male and female surfers to storm Lowers, take the world title by the short and curlies, and basically render the previous 9 months of competition completely irrelevant.

The WSL gets its Superbowl, and we get to watch Filipe try to bury his mediocre results at Pipe and Tahiti by shredding 4′ Lowers.

Or what about Kolohe? Imagine the precocious tour under-performer sneaking into the world title decider (still without a win to his name) and then pops his tour-cherry with a fricken world title at his home break.

Californian surfing would be whole again. The Gudangs would rain tears of joy through the streets of San Clemente. Dino would love Kolohe like a son.

Is it the ideal way to end the season?

I don’t care.

I’m just happy to see the tour back.

Viva la Trestles!

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