Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the World Surf League?
A: The World Surf League (WSL) organizes the annual tour of professional surf competitions and broadcasts events live at www.worldsurfleague.com where you can experience the athleticism, drama and adventure of competitive surfing -- anywhere and anytime it’s on.

Travel alongside the world’s best male and female surfers to the most remote and exotic locations in the world. Fully immerse yourself in the sport of surfing with live event broadcasts, social updates, event highlights and commentary on desktop and mobile.

The World Surf League is headquartered in Los Angeles, California with offices throughout the globe, and is dedicated to:

  • Bringing the athleticism, drama and adventure of pro surfing to fans worldwide
  • Promoting professional surfers as world-class athletes
  • Celebrating the history, elite athletes, diverse fans and dedicated partners who together embody professional surfing.

Q: When was the WSL founded?
A: The original governing body of professional surfing, the International Professional Surfers (IPS), was founded in 1976 and spearheaded by Hawaiian surfers Fred Hemmings and Randy Rarick. The next evolution was the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), founded in 1983 by Ian Cairns and giving birth in the 90’s to the company philosophy of “world’s best surfers, world’s best waves”. 2015 saw the ASP officially become the World Surf League.

Q: Where can I watch live surfing events and learn more?

A: You can find live event broadcasts, highlights, athlete interviews and much more at www.worldsurfleague.com. We’ve partnered with ABC and Universal Sports in the United States as well as broadcasters around the world to bring pro surfing to fans everywhere. You can also sign up to our mailing list to receive live event alerts and WSL news as well as following us on social media:

Facebook: facebook.com/wsl
Twitter: twitter.com/wsl
Instagram: instagram.com/wsl
Snapchat: worldsurfleague

Q: Does the World Surf League offer a mobile app?
A: We do not currently offer a smartphone app but our website is fully optimized for smartphones. Simply point your mobile browser to www.worldsurfleague.com and you can immerse yourself in the sport of professional surfing.

Q: What events does the WSL coordinate?
A: The World Surf League coordinates the following: the Championship Tours (CT), the Qualifying Series (QS), the Big Wave Tour, the Longboard Championship, the Junior Championship and the Masters Championship, as well as the Big Wave Awards.

Q: How many events are there in the Championship Tour?
A: There are 11 events on the Men’s Championship Tour and 10 events on the Women’s Championship Tour.

Q: What is the schedule of Championship Tour events for 2015?
A: You can view the full 2015 Championship Tour schedule here.

Q: Who are the current champions?
A: The 2014 ASP World Champions are Gabriel Medina (BRA) and Stephanie Gilmore (AUS); the 2014 ASP World Longboard Champions are Harley Ingleby (AUS) and Chelsea Williams (AUS); the 2014 ASP World Junior Champions are Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) and Mahina Maeda (HAW); and the 2013/2014 ASP Big Wave World Tour Champion is Grant “Twiggy” Baker (ZAF).

Q: Who can win the WSL World Championship?
A: Any one of the World Surf League Top 34 men’s surfers or Top 17 women’s surfers that qualified to compete in the Championship Tour. The male and female surfers with the most points at the end of the year are named World Champions.

Q: Which events can be used to count towards rankings?
A: There are two main rankings systems, the Championship Tour rankings and the Qualifying Series rankings. The CT rankings determine the World Champions while the QS rankings help determine who will qualify for next year’s Championship Tour.

The 2015 CT rankings will include results from the Top 34 and Top 17 as well as the replacement surfers. Only results from CT events will count towards the CT rankings. The best 9 of 11 results will count towards the men’s ranking and the best 8 of 10 results count towards the women’s rankings.

The 2015 QS rankings will include results from all WSL surfers competing in QS events. The best 5 results will count towards the rankings.

Therefore the 2016 WSL Top 34 will be comprised of:

  1. Top 22 finishers on the 2015 CT rankings
  2. Top 10 from the 2015 QS rankings (excluding those who have already qualified through the CT Rankings)
  3. Two WSL Wildcards

The 2016 WSL Top 17 will be comprised of:

  1. 1. Top 10 from the 2015 CT Rankings
  2. 2. Top 6 from the 2015 QS Rankings (barring those who have already qualified through the CT Rankings)
  3. 3. One WSL Wildcard

Q: What are World Surf League wildcards?
A: Each year the World Surf League selects three surfers (two for the Men’s CT and one for the Women’s), who wouldn’t have otherwise qualified, to join the Top 32 or Top 16 to compete in the CT for the entire season. Usually these are CT surfers who were injured in the previous season and therefore unable to re-qualify. The 2015 WSL wildcards are C.J. Hobgood (USA) and Glen Hall (IRL) in the Men’s CT and Dimity Stoyle (AUS) in the Women’s WCT.

Q: What are event wildcards?
A: In addition to the World Surf League wildcards there are also event wildcards. These are surfers who are chosen to compete alongside the CT surfers in a single CT event. A Men’s CT event has a 36-man field comprised of the Top 34 plus two event wildcards. Women’s CT events have an 18-woman field comprised of the Top 17 plus one event wildcard. The event wildcard is typically awarded by either the event sponsor, through a trials event or through automatic entry at the discretion of the event organizer. Typically candidates for the event wildcard will come from the event sponsor’s team, the local area, or both. Not only do these surfers complete the seed list and/or fill in for injured surfers, but they also bring exciting new faces and challenges to the CT elite.

Q: What are replacement surfers?
A: Replacement surfers are those who are chosen to fill empty spots at CT events should any of the competitors be unable to complete. Replacement surfers are chosen by the WSL before the start of the season and are offered the opportunity to fill empty places in CT events should other surfers withdraw.

Q: Do event wildcards and replacement surfers get to use their results towards their CT Rankings?
A: Yes, As of 2015, all event wildcards and replacement surfers will use their results towards a CT ranking.

Q: What is priority and how does it work?
A: The surfer with priority has the unconditional right of way to catch any wave they choose. Other surfers in the heat can paddle for, and catch, the same wave, but only if they don’t obstruct or hinder the scoring potential of the surfer with priority. At the start of the heat once the first wave has been ridden, the remaining surfer in the lineup gets automatic priority. A surfer loses priority once they catch a wave and/or their hands leave the rails (edges of the surfboard) as they attempt to stand up. If two or more surfers catch a wave, the first surfer to make it back to the lineup will get priority. Priority is indicated by colored discs at the event site.

In three and four person heats the first surfer to catch a wave takes last priority and the remaining surfers have priority over that surfer. The next surfer (or two surfers, in a four person heat) to catch a wave takes last priority and the surfer yet to catch a wave takes first priority. The others surfers receive priority in the order they return to the take-off area.

Q: What is “the call?” Who decides if an event is on or off?
A: Each morning of an event window the Commissioners Office will make a decision about whether or not the contest will run that day -- this is called “the call”. Lots of factors go into making the call and the Commissioner’s Office will take into account the conditions, forecast, latest swell models, how much of the competition remains and the event permit. They also consult with the head judge, the surfer’s representative and the local surfing director when making the decision each day.

The call can either be: ON -- the event will run; Standby -- another call will be made at a later time that day; or OFF -- there will be no competition that day (also called a “lay day”).

Q: What is an event window?
A: The event window is the allotted time in which event organizers can run their event. Having an event window that is longer than the time needed to finish competition enables organizers to be selective when running their heats. This gives both the surfers and spectators the benefit of having the event run in the best possible conditions.

Q: What does it mean when an event is mobile?
A: A “mobile” event has the ability to run at a more than one location to ensure that competition is held in the best conditions. An event will go “mobile” when conditions at the primary event site have been assessed by the commissioners office, and a decision is made to move the competition to one of the backup sites offering more favorable conditions.

Q: Are all events mobile?
A: No, not all events have the capacity for going mobile. The non-mobile events are most often at prime or exotic locations and will offer the most desired surf in the area. As far as the CT events go, the mobile events are:

  • Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast (AUS)
  • Drug Aware Margaret River Pro (AUS)
  • Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach (AUS)
  • Rio Pro (BRA)
  • Fiji Pro (FJI)
  • Quiksilver and Roxy Pro France (FRA)
  • Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal and Cascais Women’s Pro (PRT)

Leaving the non-mobile events as: J-Bay Open (ZAF), Billabong Pro Tahiti (PYF), Hurley and Swatch Pro at Trestles (USA), Vans US Open of Surfing Huntington (USA), Target Maui Pro (HAW) and Billabong Pipe Masters (HAW).

Q: What are the judging criteria?
A: The current WSL judging criteria was rolled out at all events in 2010. Judges analyze the following elements when scoring waves:

  • Commitment and degree of difficulty
  • Innovative and progressive maneuvers
  • Combination of major maneuvers
  • Variety of maneuvers
  • Speed, power and flow

Read the full judging criteria here.

Q: How are waves scored?
A: A panel of five judges scores each wave on a scale of one to ten. For every scoring ride, the highest and lowest scores (of the five judges) are discounted and the surfer receives the average of the remaining three scores. There is no limit on the number of waves that will be scored, but the two best scoring waves (each out of a possible 10) are added together to become a surfer’s heat total (out of a possible 20).

Q: How many waves are scored?
A: All surfers’ scores are the total of their two highest-scored waves. This does not change regardless of which WSL Tour or Championship they are competing in. By scoring surfers on only two waves (formerly it was three), the level of performance is pushed as surfers attempt for bigger scores. In all Non-Priority QS Heats and CT Heats, the maximum number of waves scored is 15. In one-on-one heats, there is no wave maximum.

Q: Does wave scoring differ between the CT and QS events?
A: No. Wave scoring does not differ between CT and QS events.