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Cape Town excluded as WSL announces 2015 / 2016 Big Wave Tour schedule

April 8th, 2015
Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker (Durban) in action at Dungeons in Cape Town in 2009  Image: Kimi Stewart / BillabongXXL.com

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker (Durban) in action at Dungeons in Cape Town in 2009  Image: Kimi Stewart / BillabongXXL.com

The World Surf League (WSL) has announced the 2015 / 2016 Big Wave Tour (BWT) schedule that includes two new venues in Mexico and Oregon in the USA but excludes Cape Town, taking the total number of stops that will determine the WSL Big Wave Surfing Champion to seven.

Dungeons, the open ocean reef near Hout Bay that has produced the biggest rideable waves on the African continent, has been removed from the schedule after the Cape Big Wave Trust (CBWT), a group that claims to include surfers from all over South Africa who regularly ride big waves in Cape Town, decided that they did not want the fully funded event to be run in at the break.

After fully supporting the WSL’s offer of the multi million Rand event on last year’s schedule, which did not run due to a lack of suitably large waves, the CBWT members were upset by reports that the number of spots allocated for local surfers would be reduced from six to four this year. This, added to their claim that the BWT did not have a clearly defined criteria for local surfers to qualify to compete in events elsewhere, saw the local group vote to withdraw the Dungeons Challenge from the tour until there was greater clarity on how the BWT system operates.

“A multi million Rand competition may be of benefit to a surfing audience, but given that we surf there (Dungeons) on average only about 5 times a year it can take away the very special experience from the very people that use the wave for their enjoyment,” said CBWT spokesman Barry Futter. “For us to support this we need to see greater clarity on exactly how the BWT system works. There needs to be real opportunity and benefit for local surfers to grow.”

The BWT officials amended their offer to include six spots for locals plus a wildcard for this year’s Dungeons Challenge, which along with the inclusion of 2013/14 BWT Champion Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker from Durban, who qualifies for all the events on the schedule due to his current No. 8 ranking, would have brought the South African contingent in the event to eight, or a third of the 24 man field.

According to the CBWT, communications between WSL BWT Vice President Gary Linden, Contest Director Craig Jarvis and themselves lacked clarity and at their AGM the members voted unanimously that they did do not want a contest at Dungeons at this point.

The decision provoked a digital media furor with many in the SA surfing community unhappy with the outcome, questioning both the CBWT’s motivation and its authority to make the decision. Baker, who would have stood to benefit the most from having a BWT event at Dungeons, which is virtually his home break, diplomatically voted and expressed his solidarity with the locals.

But several SA based big wave luminaries were less accommodating with the likes of legendary Cape Town surfer and Dungeons pioneer Jonathan Paarman and Durban based watermen Jason Ribbink and former Dungeons champion John Whittle criticizing the CBWT decision as short-sighted, selfish and stunting the development of the emerging local big wave chargers by denying them the opportunity to meet, mingle and learn from the world’s best big wave exponents in their home surf without having to incur prohibitive international travel costs.

One silver lining to the BWT announcement was the inclusion of Cape Town big wave charger James Taylor as one of the six qualifiers from last year’s #ProveIt Challenge. Taylor is joined by Trevor Carlson (HAW), Nick Vaughan (USA), Mark Mathews (AUS), Jamie Sterling (HAW) and Derek Dunfee (USA) with two of the qualifiers gaining entry at each stop on the tour.

The 2015 / 2016 Big Wave Tour (BWT) will showcase the world’s premiere big wave surfers, the planet’s most harrowing venues and an unparalleled display of adventure, competitive drama and athleticism, all accessible at WorldSurfLeague.com.

Featuring fields of 24 of the best big wave surfers in the world, the WSL BWT events cover seven different potential venues across three continents all anticipating waves in excess of 25-feet to run. With a global forecasting partner in Surfline, event organizers have allocated the following windows for the various events, each only requiring one day of extraordinary surf to run:

Quiksilver Ceremonial: Punta de Lobos: Chile (April 15, 2015 – August 31, 2015)
Billabong Pico Alto: Pico Alto: Peru (May 15, 2015 – August 31, 2015)
Puerto Escondido Challenge: Puerto Escondido, Mexico (May 15, 2015 – August 31, 2015)
Oregon Challenge: Lincoln City, Oregon (October 15, 2015 – February 28, 2016)
Punta Galea Challenge: Punta Galea, Basque Country Spain (October 15, 2015 – February 28, 2016)
Pea’hi Challenge: Haiku, Hawaii (October 15, 2015 – February 28, 2016)
Todos Santos Challenge: Todos Santos, Mexico (November 15, 2015 – March 31, 2016)

“The Big Wave Tour is entering into its second full year under the WSL banner and the enhancements made to this upcoming season are designed with one goal in mind – run as many events as possible in the largest surf on offer,” Peter Mel, former BWT Champion and WSL BWT Commissioner, said. “The schedule is designed with this in mind and we’re excited about the addition of Puerto Escondido and Lincoln City as full-fledged members of the 2015 / 2016 BWT season. It’s never been a more exciting time for big wave surfing.”

The acquisition of the BWT by the WSL will allow for top WSL surfers such as 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), three-time World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS), Hawaiian phenom John John Florence (HAW), amongst others to potentially join respected BWT surfers like Greg Long (USA), Grant Baker (ZAF), Gabriel Villaran (PER), Nic Lamb (USA) and Makua Rothman (HAW) in competition with waves in the 25-foot-and-above range.

The BWT complements the WSL properties of the men’s and women’s Championship Tours, the Qualifying Series, Longboard and Junior Championships as well as the Big Wave Awards on May 1.

ENDS

About the World Surf League
The World Surf League (WSL) organizes the annual tour of professional surf competitions and broadcasts each event live at WorldSurfLeague.com where you can experience the athleticism, drama and adventure of competitive surfing — anywhere and anytime it’s on. The WSL sanctions and operates the following tours: the Junior Tour, Longboard Tour, the Qualifying Series (QS), the Big Wave Tour and the crown jewel of the sport, the WSL Championship Tour (CT) which determines the sport’s undisputed world champions. The organization is headquartered in Santa Monica, California with Commercial Offices in New York. The offices are supported by regional centers in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Hawaii, North America and South America.

Issued on behalf of:

WSL Africa
Contact: Colin Fitch – Operations Manager
Tel: 021 534 5738
Email: cfitch@worldsurfleague.com

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