The amount of labor involved in staging and broadcasting a Championship Tour event can be mind-blowing. While stadium sports go on with the flip of a switch, at modern, high-end surf venues everything is built from scratch, from trenches to towers...at every single stop, every time an event runs.
Whether adjacent to a bustling city, like Snapper Rocks, or miles from shore at a Fijian reef, there's an army of engineers working behind the scenes. Cables and wires are laid, huge structures are built and furnished, signage designed and delivered, food services scheduled and prepped -- everything from bagels to bathrooms are accounted for.
And then there's the contingency plans just in case nature wants in on the call, which it did in Brazil.
What's happened in Rio is not exclusive to Rio. And we're actually lucky that this storm hit with a week left before the event.
This week storms flooded the huge site being constructed at Postinho, the primary hub of the Oi Rio Pro. Erosion beneath the structure rendered it unsafe. Now, with fewer than four days to go before the Oi Rio Pro waiting period begins, the WSL events team is doing the impossible, creating two new sites from the ground-up.
"We lost six months of planning and 30 days of work," said Xandi Fontes, General Manager of WSL South America. "But it's amazing to see our backup plans in action."
With the clock ticking, everyone is in high, espresso-fueled gear.
"By the time the storm came we already had both sites established, as they should be," said Renato Hickel, Deputy Championship Tour Commissioner. "But all of a sudden you have to improvise and divide your staff. Specifically for me and Kieren Perrow, the Tour Commissioner, the one thing that is imperative for us is that we have a secondary site to optimize the waves."
Fortunately, this isn't their first time dealing with adversity. It's actually par for the course with surf events.
"Over the years we've had so many fallbacks in terms of events and structures. What's happened in Rio is not exclusive to Rio. And we're actually lucky that this storm hit with a week left before the event," Hickel explained. "If it was closer, we wouldn't have had time to build out a second site."
The logistics surrounding Grumari are significant for fans. Parking is extremely limited, so fans will have to be bussed in. Fontes and Otavio Perdigao, the executive producer of the contest, will be encouraging contest-goers to arrive early to avoid bottlenecks and big lines.
Meanwhile, the larger party will remain at Postinho, where giant screens will keep crowds in touch with all the live action while allowing them shop, eat, and stroll along the sponsor village. There will be music, athlete signings, a Corona lounge at K08 club, and more announcements are in the works, for a massive beach festival.
In Brazil the party never stops. And for the next few days at least, neither will the WSL events team. "We have incredible people making it happen," says Hickel. "Challenges like this are what make this job exciting."
Watch the Oi Rio Pro streaming live daily on the WSL website and app, May 10-21.