AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Tuesday, September 10, 2019) - For the first time in five years, the World Surf League (WSL) will return to the pristine shores of New Zealand for the Piha Pro, a WSL Challenger Series (CS) event on the newly-announced competition tier's calendar. The combined men's and women's events will take place in March of 2020 at the iconic Piha Beach, Auckland. The event has been confirmed for 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons.
As part of the new WSL Challenger Series, the inaugural Piha Pro will attract a huge international field with some of surfing's biggest stars coming up against New Zealand's most promising talent. The event will offer equal prize money to both men and women.
WSL Championship Tour competitors and New Zealand Olympic hopefuls Ricardo Christie and Paige Hareb cannot wait to take on the world's best in home waters.
"I'm so excited to surf in a major WSL event on home soil," said Paige Hareb. "It's been quite a few years now since NZ has had a major surf event and I definitely think we're due for one and I can't wait to see the positive effect it will have on surfing in NZ. I remember when my hometown of Taranaki had an event there was a massive increase in the female participation afterwards, which was special to see. Kiwis only ever really get to watch the big events online, so it'll be awesome for them to be able to watch it live in their own backyard. This will also be the first time I've competed in NZ for equal points and prize money, which will be amazing -- the future is now."
"It's going to be awesome to have such a prestigious event come to New Zealand," said Ricardo Christie. "It will be cool for the whole country to see some really high-quality surfing again. We've had some big events in the past and they did wonders for the local surfing community, so it will be really cool to see that again. Piha Beach is close to the country's biggest city but it is quite a small quiet town with a lot of natural beauty and bushland. The waves at Piha can vary a lot but it's generally really fun, especially at that time of year. New Zealand has a really 'core' surfing community and a lot of great waves so it will be cool to have everyone come together and enjoy some world-class surfing. I hope that having an event of this stature will make it easier for the next generation of New Zealand surfers to give it their best."
New Zealand has long been known for its beautiful coastline, which is dotted with world-class waves, and this event will display this perfection to surf fans around the world. It will also be a huge opportunity for the deep talent pool of local surfers to showcase their skills against the world's best with avenues to the main event through a[JT2] local trials event being available for New Zealand competitors.
"The New Zealand Government is investing in the WSL Challenger Series and it's a great fit for New Zealand," said Economic Development Minister, Phil Twyford. "The WSL Challenger Series has a focus on gender equity, which aligns incredibly well with the work we're already doing in Aotearoa New Zealand to inspire and encourage more women and girls to participate and lead in sport and active recreation. Also, having the world's best surfers here, and sharing our country with them, can really build pride and connections both at home and with visiting athletes and supporters."
The 2020 event will be the first in a three-year agreement between the WSL, New Zealand Major Events and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), which invested in the event on behalf of Auckland Council.
ATEED General Manager Destination, Steve Armitage, says the Piha Pro is set to become one of the featured events on the international calendar.
"We know the significance of this week-long event and with the prospect of a global audience watching, we will remind the rest of the world what Auckland is all about," Armitage said. "At the same time, it supports our commitment to make Tamaki Makaurau a pre-eminent destination for local and international visitors while providing New Zealanders the chance to cheer on our local talent on home soil."
The event will be one of a small selection of this rating on the WSL calendar, meaning for surfers looking to qualify for the elite Championship Tour, the Piha Pro will play as a critical opportunity on their annual global pilgrimage.
"The World Surf League is really excited to be heading to New Zealand," said WSL Asia Pacific General Manager, Andrew Stark. "Not only is Piha an iconic destination for international traveling surfers but with two Kiwi representatives on our Championship Tour, along with a deep talent pool of competitors on our Qualifying and Junior Series, it makes sense for the WSL to hold a major event in a country with close ties to surfing. We'd like to thank the New Zealand government along with ATEED for their support to ensure the Piha Pro has become a reality."
The New Zealand Trials will be held prior to the main event that will guarantee four New Zealand surfers the opportunity to compete in the WSL Challenger Series event.
The event will run from March 17 through March 22, 2020. Please visit WorldSurfLeague.com or download the free WSL App for more information on the Piha Pro and the newly announced WSL Challenger Series.
The Piha Pro is proudly supported by our partners at New Zealand Major Events, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED).