SAN DIEGO (AP) — The World Surf League’s 2021 men’s and women’s season championships will be decided with a new format at the renowned Lower Trestles in San Diego County in September.
It will be the first time the men’s tour has finished in California. The women’s tour finished in Huntington Beach in 2012.
The WSL Finals waiting period will run from Sept. 8-17. The top five men and top five women will compete for their respective titles in a new surf-off format during the single-day competition at one of the world’s best surf breaks.
The switch to the new format had been planned for some time. With the 2020 tour canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials had time to fine tune the competition for the 2021 season.
Previously, the tour finished in Hawaii, with the men surfing at one location and the women at another.
The 2021 season will coincide with surfing making its debut in the Olympics. The Tokyo Games were postponed one year due to the pandemic.
Because of travel challenges due to COVID-19, the 13-stop international tour will begin with contests in Hawaii and California.
The season will start with the women competing in the Maui Pro presented by ROXY at Honolua Bay from Dec. 4-15, and the men surfing at Pipeline in Oahu at the Billabong Pipe Masters presented by Hydro Flask from Dec. 8-20.
“Hawaii is such a big part of surfing history and culture, and there is no better place to start a season and end a challenging year on a positive note,” said four-time reigning world champion Carissa Moore, who earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in December.
The WSL is adding two new stops for 2021, the Sunset Open at Sunset Beach in Oahu from Jan. 19-28 and the Santa Cruz Pro Feb. 2-12.
There will be a similar grouping of three contests in Australia in April and May.
“Putting on an international tour amid a global pandemic is not an easy task, but the dedication and work of the entire organization, gives us confidence that we can safely execute these competitions on behalf of our athletes, staff and the local communities,” WSL CEO Erik Logan said.
The WSL has collaborated with public health officials and medical experts to devise a safety plan that includes testing for athletes and essential staff, strict physical distancing measures, temperature checks, limited or no fans on site and minimal personnel at contests.
After canceling the 2020 tour, the WSL ran a series of regional competitions from Aug. 9 through Oct. 6 in California, Australia, Brazil, France and Portugal. These six WSL Countdown stops and two specialty competitions ran with no COVID-19 issues.
The 2021 season will offer the same number of events for women as for men. That will be done by adding women to the Outerknown Tahiti Pro from Aug. 23-Sept. 2.
Tahiti will be the venue for surfing in the 2024 Paris Olympics.