World Surf League: a revolutionary surf-off format will determine world champions | Photo: WSL

The World Surf League (WSL) will crown its champions in a surf-off format from 2021 onward.

The surfing world is on hold right now.

But, despite the extremely challenging times for everyone around the globe, WSL is still determined to crown the 2020 world surfing champions.

"As frustrating as it is at this point, the status of the 2020 Championship Tour in all of our events is still unknown," notes Erik Logan, CEO of WSL.

"This is true for every sport and indeed for every industry that involves public gatherings. But what we do know is that when the WSL can safely and legally run events, we absolutely will."

Professional surfing's big boss says WSL will always provide as much transparency as it can and give fans an idea of what they're thinking about moving ahead.

"Running a global sport is a complex exercise at the best of times, and coming out of a global pandemic will take this complexity and ramp it up considerably."

That is why WSL has been studying changes to its competitive format. These more or less drastic adjustments and transformations will be put in place in 2021 and beyond.

"Our pause due to Covid-19 allowed us to see that now is the time to accelerate these changes," adds Logan.

WSL Championship Tour: pro surfing will change dramatically in 2021 | Photo: WSL

The Surf-Off Revolution

Crowning world champions is the most important thing the WSL does.

As a result, this evolution has been part of the multi-year discussion, and the final design is a collaboration between professional surfers, WSL partners, and the organization.

"We all saw something magical this past season when fate brought us the number 1 and number 2 male surfers Italo Ferreira and Gabriel Medina in the final heat of the year with the world title on the line," says Erik Logan.

"The impact on the performances, the fans, and the entire surfing world of having a head-to-head world championship heat was palpable, and this impact wasn't just a feeling."

"It was the largest, most consumed heat in the history of professional surfing," reveals the CEO of WSL.

But it's not every year that we get a world championship heat.

So, the WSL will ensure that the men's and women's world surfing titles will be decided in the water.

Starting next year, the world champions will be crowned in a single day of competition.

The ultimate finals day - and the last day of the Championship Tour (CT) season - will see the top men and the top women battling for their respective titles in a new surf-off format.

"Seeding will absolutely matter in the surf-off. Finishing the regular Championship Tour season ranked number one will provide a distinct advantage," explains Logan.

WSL believes that this competitive format has tremendous value and will benefit the global community of surf fans.

The Challenger Series and the Qualifying Series

In 2019, WSL introduced the Challenger Series (CS) into the schedule as its top-tier 10,000-point events within the Qualifying Series (QS).

This series was created to ensure that the best surfers on the planet are competing and qualifying for the CT.

But, in 2021, WSL plans to take it to the next level.

"With the redesign season rolling out next year, we're going to ensure that a defined calendar space exists for two premier showcases in one 12-month period - the world's best surfing on the CT and the battle for qualification at the CS level," states Logan.

"Under our current system, if you're an elite CT surfer and you fall off the CT, you have to compete for a full year on the QS and attempt to requalify, thereby missing the next CT season. This change fixes that problem."

"If you're in an elite CT surfer and you fail to requalify, you'll have the opportunity to compete in the CS season, and if you perform, you'll be back among the world's best on the CT the very next year."

WSL acknowledges that on the other side of this global pandemic, there are a lot of unknowns. That said, the organization underlines that crowning the world's best surfing will always be at its core.

"This is absolutely contingent upon ensuring we continue to have the best surfers competing and advancing through our tours," explains the WSL leader.

Professional surfing: WSL champions will be crowned on the last day of the season | Photo: WSL

No Money, No Problem

Even prior to the pandemic, the challenging financial realities of being a young surfer with dreams of qualifying for the elite Championship tour were daunting.

"And the bottom line is this: up-and-coming surfers shouldn't have to worry so much about how to make the pursuit of their dreams financially realistic," notes Erik Logan

"They should be focusing on performing and developing, and that's what development ears are for. So on the other side of this, we're reorienting our development here."

"Still called the QS and radically improving the pathway to up-and-coming surfers, we'll be focusing on creating regional domestic tours for surfers to be able to push themselves in their respective regions first, greatly lessening the need for expensive travel and build the ranking and their profile at home before jumping to do battle on the international CS and then on to the CT."

"We feel this evolved pathway to the CT will only strengthen and deepen the competitive arena, both regionally and internationally."

WSL is working to ensure that more young surfers around the globe have the opportunity to chase the dream of surfing among the world's best on the CT.

"Where and when we will run this year is still very much an open question, but we will continue to work with governments, world health authorities, and our local communities on the possibility of returning to the lineup," concludes Erik Logan.

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