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Beach Grit

Solution: How to Monetise the WCT!

Jazzy P

by Jazzy P

Sixteen surfers, one-day events, pay-to-view… 

Do you worry about the future of the WCT? Of the fabulously handsome Dirk Ziff’s, so far, thirty mill investment?

It keeps me up at night!

If the WCT wants to kick itself into the black, here are the tough decisions.

First, kill those babies.

The biggest issue for the CT is the current field of 36 competitors per event. You need 26 hours of heats to run the event. Without any interruptions and running full time that’s around three days. And this is over a waiting period of around 12 days per event. Who’s that good for? The surfers? The fans? Nobody.

The sales side of this is a nightmare. Live sport is one of the last pillars of the traditional TV broadcast. Live sport, along with news, might actually survive this new digital age. And what do live sports broadcasts rely on?


What sports broadcaster wants to buy a product that may run intermittently for a three-day period over a 12-day stretch?

What’s the solution? Cut the tour to 16 surfers. Round one, round two, quarter-finals ,semi-finals, finals. Run a contest in one day. Waiting periods would still apply but forecasting for optimal conditions would be so much easier.

Wh’d be in the this top 16? Let’s examine the ratings: JJF, Gabs, Julian, Jordy, Wilko, Owen, Kolohe, Adriano, Joel, Filipe, Seabass, Mick, Connor, Frederico, Jeremy, Ace. The Top 12 at the end of the year requalify and the other 4 are pulled from the ‘QS Prime Tour’. It’s a sellable product, jammed with potential super-stars, that doesn’t require test-cricket like attention spans from the audience.

The biggest argument coming from the pundits that want 34 touring surfers is to allow for ‘development’. Stage two of the solution would address this and at the same time bring much-needed public attention to the QS.

Currently, the only viewers of the QS are the athlete’s parents and their sponsors. The ‘QS Prime’ circuit would become a tour for the next best 64 surfers and consists of the QS6000+ events that are currently in production. Any QS6000+ event comes with the public circus and funding of a CT event anyway so why not make it more of a spectator sport? The current prime tour would read Australia x 2, Japan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, USA, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Hawaii x 2.

The third tier would consist of the QS1000, 1500, and 3000 events. This is the ‘public tour’ where surfers can join to get enough points to qualify for the Prime Tour.

What we get is a framework that is structured and isn’t muddied by athletes competing across weight-divisions. It can also be explained to a non-surfer without the use of calculus. Schedule it right and you could have an event worth viewing (CT or Prime) every two weeks. The elite tour would create household names while the prime tour would shine a light on the best up-and-coming talent.

Having this new structure also allows for greater revenue opportunities. The UFC is a great yardstick as they produce much content in-house, in a similar model to what the WSL is trying to do. The UFC broadcasts its lower-tier fights for free, to garner attention. But they switch to a PPV (pay-per-view) model when it comes to the elite fights. In the short term, I don’t see the WSL being able to attract the ESPN’s and FOX’s of the world to live broadcast events. The online broadcast is going to be the bread and butter.

But a UFC-esque model would work for the WSL. Free online broadcast of the QS Prime and ‘qualification’ tours, and then switch to a pay-per-event or annual subscription model for the CT. A subscription service could/should follow the NBA or NFL Game Pass model, where you have access to a huge range of online replays/camera angles/insights etc. through your paid online portal.

For the QS Prime events it’s not too much of a change. You have already got big-name sponsors lined up. You could also argue that the quality of surfer would improve. However, the sponsors would have the cherry dangled that these Prime events would attract a larger audience via the only ‘free’ broadcast. The CT now opens up a range of new revenue opportunities: tickets, subscriptions and bigger sponsorships.

Firstly, tickets. Currently, the WSL faces a tricky task selling tickets due to the sporadic running of the events over a 12-day period. With a one0-day event and modern day forecasting you could almost pinpoint the day the event will run a couple of weeks out.

Also, fans are more likely to pay for entry if they know that they will be able to go for one day and see a full competition back-to-back. I’m not suggesting the WSL ropes off the whole beach area and make it an entirely ticketed event. It’d be free to stand on the beach but there’d be ticketed premium areas with seating/bars/lounges. You could charge for sponsorship suites. All this comes to life with a one-day competition.

Of course, some locations will be bigger revenue spinners, such as Australia, Europe and USA. But the extra revenue from theses would help cover the budget hole for beautiful, and necessary, stops for the dream tour like Fiji and Tahiti.

The new selective CT would also naturally create superstar names. And superstars bring large followings and big sponsorship dollars.

Here’s how it looks:

CT – 16 Competitors

Top 12 quality of the next year

Bottom 4 relegated to the Prime Tour

Contest Structure

Round 1 – 4 surfers – 1 advances to QF, 2 to round 2, 1 eliminated

Round 2 – 2 surfers – 1 advances, 1 eliminated




*15 heats in total for the competition.

Prime Tour – 64 competitors

Top 4 promoted to CT

Next 40 stay on Prime Tour

Bottom 20 relegated to Qualification Tour

Contest Structure

Same as current format, except seeding into higher rounds for the top 16 on tour

Qualifying Tour

Top 20 advance to Prime Tour

Open numbers

If the WSL switched to this format, here’s who’d be where.


  1. John John Florence
  2. Gabriel Medina
  3. Julian Wilson
  4. Jordy Smith
  5. Matt Wilkinson
  6. Owen Wright
  7. Kolohe Andino
  8. Adriano de Souza
  9. Joel Parkinson
  10. Filipe Toledo
  11. Sebastian Zietz
  12. Mick Fanning
  13. Griffin Colapinto
  14. Jesse Mendes
  15. Wade Carmichael
  16. Tomas Hermes


  1. Connor O’Leary
  2. Frederico Morais
  3. Jeremy Flores
  4. Adrian Buchan
  5. Kanoa Igarashi
  6. Caio Ibelli
  7. Michel Bourez
  8. Conner Coffin
  9. Joan Duru
  10. Italo Ferreira
  11. Ian Gouveia
  12. Miguel Pupo
  13. Wiggoly Dantas
  14. Leonardo Fioravanti
  15. Kelly Slater
  16. Ezekiel Lau
  17. Jack Freestone
  18. Nat Young
  19. Jadson Andre
  20. Ethan Ewing
  21. Stuart Kennedy
  22. Yago Dora
  23. William Cardoso
  24. Keanu Asing
  25. Michael Rodrigues
  26. Patrick Gudauskas
  27. Michael Frebruary
  28. Jordann Couzinet
  29. Alejo Muniz
  30. Bino Lopes
  31. Hiroto Ohhara
  32. Ricardo Christie
  33. Vasco Ribeiro
  34. Alex Ribeiro
  35. Joshua Moniz
  36. Deivid Silva
  37. Mikey Wright
  38. Flavio Nakagima
  39. Carlos Munoz
  40. Dion Atkinson
  41. Maxime Huscenot
  42. Cooper Chapman
  43. Davey Cathels
  44. Ramzi Boukhiam
  45. Adam Melling
  46. Kiron Jabour
  47. Miguel Tudela
  48. Peterson Crisanto
  49. Mitch Coleborn
  50. Ryan Callinan
  51. Soli Bailey
  52. Lucas Silveira
  53. Aritz Aranburu
  54. Evan Geiselman
  55. Marco Giorgi
  56. Thiago Camarao
  57. Victor Bernardo
  58. Noe Mar McGonagle
  59. Barron Mamiya
  60. Ian Crane
  61. Gony Zubizarreta
  62. David Van Zyl
  63. Marc Lacomare
  64. Cam Richards

Qualifying Top 20 to advance

  1. Heitor Alves
  2. Tanner Gudauskas
  3. Benji Brand
  4. Dusty Payne
  5. Rafael Teixeira
  6. Hizunome Bettero
  7. Brett Simpson
  8. Charly Martin
  9. Hiroto Arai
  10. Luel Felipe
  11. Oney Anwar
  12. Marco Fernandez
  13. Imaikalani Devault
  14. Mitch Crews
  15. Tanner Hendrickson
  16. Krystian Kymerson
  17. Beyrick De Vries
  18. Seth Moniz
  19. Koa Smith
  20. Kalani Ball

Tell me this wouldn’t work.