This article was originally published on March 13, 2020
After much speculation in the surfing world, the WSL has finally made the decision to cancel all WSL events for the month of March following the escalation of COVID-19 to global pandemic by the World Health Organisation. This of course includes the opening event of the WSL Championship Tour season, the Corona Open Gold Coast, which was set to begin on March 26 and run till April 5.
WHO upgraded the severity of coronavirus after a jump in cases this week upped the death toll to more than 4600 across 114 countries.
Despite many major sports around the world, such as the NBA, instituting cancellations and suspension of events, the WSL’s position was full steam ahead for the opening event of the Championship Tour as late as last night. Nick Carroll wrote about the WSL’s status on the situation for Coastalwatch just yesterday.
“Due to the rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19 and out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our athletes, fans, and staff, the World Surf League (WSL) has made the decision to cancel all events yet to commence at all tour levels.”
That’s the first line of the WSL’s major announcement released on the morning of Friday March 13 2020, and it marks the first time a Championship Tour event has been cancelled in almost 20 years (at least that we can recall).
Events that are already in the process of running, such as the QS Challenger Series event currently being surfed out at Manly, will run to their completion.
It’s also worth clarifying here that the Corona Open Gold Coast is “cancelled”, and not “postponed” – A significant difference.
For event no.2, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, the WSL says:
“Based on the information we have at this time, we are not currently canceling any additional events beyond this time frame. That said, the situation continues to evolve, and we are closely monitoring and evaluating the status of our upcoming events, including our next CT event at Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia.”
As news filtered to the scene at the Piha Pro Junior in New Zealand, which was set to begin tomorrow, the groms were said to be in “total heartbreak” on the prospect of not being able to go ahead and compete.
The full body of the WSL’s announcement is read out by Chris Coté in this twitter video:
Out of caution and concern for the safety of athletes, fans and staff, the WSL has decided to cancel all upcoming events in the month of March, including the opening of the 2020 Championship Tour on the Gold Coast of Australia. For more information go to https://t.co/ie0ZfNdmHw pic.twitter.com/LxpMT7fxgg
— World Surf League (@wsl) March 12, 2020
The WSL’s surfers were told the news first, Coastalwatch was able to obtain the info that was shared with its athletes this morning, it reads much the same as the WSL announcement made half an hour later.
Due to the rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19 and out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our athletes, fans, and staff, the World Surf League (WSL) has made the decision to cancel all events yet to commence at all tour levels, worldwide for the remainder of March, including the opening event of the 2020 Championship Tour (CT) on the Gold Coast in Australia. Additionally, we are canceling the Papara Pro Open Tahiti.
This decision is based on guidance from the World Health Organization, who has declared that COVID-19 is now a global pandemic, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, governments and local public health authorities where our events are being held.
“Coronavirus is having massive consequences for sporting events and gatherings of all kinds around the world, and we are no different,” said WSL CEO Erik Logan. “We did not take this decision lightly as we are aware that it has a significant impact on the surfing community. However, the health and safety of our athletes, fans, and staff are paramount. From the standpoint of social responsibility, we also take very seriously the role our events might play in accelerating the spread of the virus. We’ve been in close contact with our athletes and we feel strongly that this is the right thing to do right now.”
“The fluid nature of this situation is forcing us to evaluate things day-by-day, and even hour-by-hour,” Logan said. “As this continues to evolve, we’ll continue to adapt, endeavoring to make the next right decision each day.”
Based on the information we have at this time, we are not currently canceling any additional events beyond this time frame. That said, the situation continues to evolve, and we are closely monitoring and evaluating the status of our upcoming events, including our next CT event at Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia.
The WSL is carefully considering the impact of these cancellations on our tours and we will provide further information in due course.
For all events currently in progress, we have implemented a range of safety protocols as well as protective guidelines for athletes and staff. These include information on travel advisories and restrictions so anyone traveling can plan their travel routes to and from our events to best limit their potential exposure; additional hand-washing facilities and hand sanitizer at events; and minimizing surfer and fan interactions.
List of currently canceled or postponed events:
Papara Pro Open Tahiti, French Polynesia – canceled
Piha Pro Junior, New Zealand – postponed
Corona Piha Pro, New Zealand – postponed
Seat Pro Netanya, Israel – postponed
Barbados Surf Pro, Barbados – postponed
Corona Open Gold Coast, Australia – canceled
WSL Awards – postponed
Red Bull Airborne Gold Coast, Australia – canceled
Jack’s Surfboards Pro, USA – postponed
Longboard Pro Espinho, Portugal – postponed
Caparica Surf Fest Pro, Portugal – postponed
Central Japan Open, Japan – postponed
Krui Pro, Indonesia – postponed’
We’ll have more info on this story, and analysis of what it all means for professional surfing going forward, as it develops.