Many twists, many turns.
As the WSL (somehow) soldiers on, it’s easy to lose track of of the absurdity of the last eight months.
July 17, 2020:
The WSL cancels the 2020 Tour, citing the “health and safety of athletes” and “the challenges of international travel.” While many lament the news, it seems rather prudent given the state of things.
Maybe a reset is just what the WSL needs.
In the same breath, the WSL introduces a new and improved Championship Tour. It boasts a revamped finals event (with a mystery location), new event locations, and kick-off events at Pipe and Maui.
The optimists among us muse about a finals event held at a tropical reef, but the realists remind us of a little cobblestone A-frame in Southern California.
November 10, 2020:
The WSL announces that the WSL Finals will be held at. . . Trestles.
Kolohe and Filipe rejoice.
The WSL also announces a myriad of new event locations for the 2021 Tour, axing Portugal and G-Land for Sunset and Santa Cruz.
The WSL never releases a formal statement regarding Portugal and G-Land. The November 10th press release simply reads postponed and TBD, respectively.
The first leg of the Tour kicks off, with the women at Honolulu Bay and the men at Pipe.
The morning before the women’s finals, a man is attacked and killed by a shark, putting the event on hold. Elo introduces us all to some new corpospeak, calling it a “shark incident.”
The women’s event is subsequently moved to Pipe, where the competitors opt for turns in lieu of tubes. Tyler Wright is crowned the winner of the Maui Pro at Pipeline.
Meanwhile, the men start the 2021 Tour at Pipe in pumping surf. Surf fans rejoice.
Then, the Billabong Pipe Masters is suddenly suspended as a result of positive COVID-19 tests “within the WSL staff, including WSL CEO Erik Logan.”
WSL viewers are largely left in the dark. Pipe continues to pump, unsullied by professional competition. Rumors abound about patient zero.
On December 15 the event resumes, albeit in smaller surf. John Florence banishes Gabriel Medina for the win and old man Slater takes a third place finish alongside Italo.
January 5, 2021:
Hawaii suspends all surfing competitions, forcing the WSL to cancel the Sunset Open and Jaws.
The WSL additionally announces the suspension of the Santa Cruz Pro, scheduled for February, citing the surge of cases in California.
Surf fans are left in the lurch. The next event isn’t scheduled until April.
January 7, 2021:
A Pulitzer Prize worthy bit of investigative journalism (snub of the year!) reveals that the WSL has failed to acquire the necessary permitting for the Trestles Final Event.
A finals event in California’s Central Valley seems more and more likely.
January 31, 2021:
Rumors abound of a potential CT event at Lennox Head, adding an additional contest to the Australian leg.
February 2-3, 2021:
The Lennox community rebels against the WSL, threatening protest paddle outs, while the WSL claims community support.
It appears the WSL has largely acted in the dark, leaving many community members out of the loop.
Surf journalism takes yet another step towards the edge of the cliff, with the likes of Stab and The Inertia ignoring the fallout.
Said community quickly mobilizes, forcing the issue to a head. Ballina Councillors reject the event.
WSL General Manager for Australia Andrew Stark says, “If you don’t want us to come to your town, we’re not coming.”
I mull staging a protest in Lemoore.
February 6, 2021:
The WSL quickly pivots, securing an event at Merewether.
The intention is to charter a plane for both Tours from Los Angeles to Sydney for a two-week quarantine in mid-March.
February 7, 2021:
Bells is cancelled, resulting in a reported $8 million loss for Torquay.
The WSL cites the government’s failure to approve a plan for quarantining the athletes.
The Newcastle Cup is scheduled for April 1-11. Mayor claims $15 million boost for economy.
February 15, 2021:
The WSL releases yet another updated schedule.
The new Australian leg will include events at Newcastle, Narrabeen, Margaret River, and Rottnest.
Snapper is the latest casualty, along with Pat O’Connell, who after only a year will be replaced by Jessi Miley-Dyer, the new Head of Competition.
Eight months. Six cancellations. Two Heads of Competition. Mass COVID infections. One “shark incident.”
Too many press releases.