Well, we won’t have to wait until December to watch live competitive surfing again. The WSL just announced they’ll be running “The Australian Grand Slam of Surfing”, a two-event strike series at South Stradroke Island and Margaret River, with a waiting period between September 1 and October 31. While the events will have no bearing on points or ratings, they will be broadcast live, and feature 24 Australian surfers (12 men and 12 women), the majority of them on the Championship Tour.
According to the presser, each event will run in two days of competition within a two-month waiting period, in an attempt to score the best waves possible, and the prize money ($20,000 AUD each) will go to the men’s and women’s winners’ charities of choice. It goes on to say that similar regional events are planned for America (likely at Lemoore), as well as in France and Portugal, prior to the 2021 season openers at Honolua Bay and Pipeline (scheduled this November/December). If the WSL can pull them all off, we could see five live exhibition events in the next four months. A welcome slate of entertainment after eight months of nothing.
While the WSL is promoting these strikes as a “WSL Countdown” series, it seems possible they’re also being used as an experiment for the future. Remember, the location for the “WSL Finals” world title decider is still up in the air. Last week we posited that the WSL should consider running the title decider over a two-month window, with a shortlist of the world’s best waves as options, to guarantee pumping surf. Interestingly, that’s exactly what the WSL is doing with this Grand Slam of Surfing, except they’ve already narrowed the locations down to South Straddie and Margaret River. And of course, with COVID restrictions still in place, both events will be non-spectator, and broadcast only.
“Good luck finding a surfer that doesn’t daydream about scoring one of those perfect South Straddie days,” Julian Wilson told the WSL. “Having a window to pick a 2-day event window is ideal, this is going to be fun. Anytime we get to have a WSL event at a location where we all want to go for a surfing trip anyway, is something to look forward to! West Aus has so much to offer in terms of wave varieties and whether it’s big or small it always packs a punch and offers an opportunity for us to perform.”
It’s unclear from the presser if the Margaret River Pro will be held strictly at Main Break, or if surrounding waves like The Box and North Point are also options. Wilson’s quote leads us to believe the WSL will try to run the event in pumping tubes, rather than mushy walls, which would be epic for those itching to watch some action. West OZ has at least a half dozen world-class slabs and South Straddie, on the Gold Coast, is one of the best beachbreaks in the world — when it’s on, that is. Whether or not that time of the year (the opening months of Spring) will actually produce the type of waves fans are hoping for remains to be seen.
Regardless of the location in West Oz or the swell they score at Straddie, it looks like the WSL is following in the footsteps of the NBA, MLB, etc and looking for creative ways to come back online in 2020.