The revised WSL tour schedule for 2021 was dropped yesterday.
But while the commentary has been busy with the end of the tour – debating the deserves a matchup for the world title at Trestles – it is far. Who knows where the hell this thing is going to be by September of next year? The start of the tour in three weeks raises enough questions.
The tour was reported to begin with the women in Honolua Bay on December 4th. The men start four days later at Pipe. Two new events follow for men and women… a Sunset Beach event starting January 18, before heading to the Americas for a contest at Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz.
In a normal year, surfers would already be in Hawaii by this time. Haleiwa is said to have started this week. Instead, most of them are still at home figuring out what to do.
For someone like tour veteran Ace Buchan, who has traveled in the past with his wife Bec and three children, things are even trickier. “For me personally, I was able to choose between my family and my career… and try to find a way to do both. So I’m going to skip Pipe and it’s okay, I’ll do Sunset and Santa Cruz.
The month-long hiatus between Pipe and Sunset is great news for young, no-commitment crews back home. They’ll be able to stay in Hawaii and surf on Christmas, but if you have a family at home, that creates problems. “For starters, I would be sitting in a quarantine hotel in Parramatta for two weeks,” says Ace. “In fact, I would spend Christmas alone in quarantine, then I would have five days before I had to turn around and go home. Either that or it’s three months away from home.
The irony is that Australia of all countries is causing the biggest headaches in putting this thing together. The fact that there are only a handful of active cases nationwide means Australia is doubling down on narrow borders and in many ways remaining cut off from the rest of the surfing world.
Getting out of here is doable. “Thefts weren’t as much of a hindrance as I thought,” says Ace. “There are no direct flights, but you can fly into San Fran and go to Hawaii from there. I think that’s the way most people will go. However, to be allowed to fly from Hawaii, they will need to be tested at the terminal before boarding.
Getting there is one thing for Australians; get another one. “There are still 25,000 people trying to get home all over the world, and the risk is getting stuck coming back. People were excluded from the flights, but I think the plan was after Santa Cruz to try to get the entire Australian crew back on a flight and get group authority to get us all on the plane.
If that first leg goes, the next challenge is to bring international surfers to Australia for the Australian three-event leg, which starts with Bells on April 1. Again, Australia’s success in controlling the pandemic makes this problematic, especially as the locations these surfers are currently among the most affected with cases continuing to rise – Continental US, Brazil , Europe. Things will have to improve drastically for them to be allowed in, although the WSL is reportedly already investigating a quarantine bubble like those used by football codes nationwide, where foreign surfers can quarantine themselves near the ocean while being able to surf.
The Australian leg is the key… if these three events fall (Portugal in February has already been canceled), the chances of completing the tour would decrease as well. But if they are successful, there’s even an opportunity to host a fourth event on short notice to cover other events later in the year that will almost inevitably be lost. G-Land already looks fragile, but any one from J-Bay, Tahiti or Brazil could be too. There are few certainties at the moment.
Ace, who has been in close contact with Pat O’Connell of the WSL for the past few months, is optimistic that they will be able to do well, even though what they end up surfing is vastly different from the schedule released this week. . “Other sports have found a way. And I want to surf. I really want to surf and everyone else too. As tough as it can be, I don’t think they can afford to cancel a sophomore year, but it’s going to be tricky. “