The 2020 World Surf League (WSL) North America season is taking shape with the first leg of events confirmed. The newly formatted Challenger Series is now in place to highlight marquee events and the Qualifying Series (QS) now encompasses the QS 1,000 - QS 5,000-level of competition to showcase the next generation of emerging Championship Tour (CT) qualifying threats taking on seasoned veterans.
North America's QS season will begin on the familiar shores of Pismo Beach, California, after the event's return following success in 2017 and 2018. Visit SLO Cal comes on board as presenting sponsor for the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach January 30 - February 2 and inaugural SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay February 27 - March 1, both events a men's and women's QS 1,000, to help support professional surfing in California.
"We are pretty fired up with a few new changes," said Event Director and Surfers of Tomorrow President Andy McKay. "First we are welcoming a new title sponsor, Visit SLO CAL. They are really supportive of our cause of adding more California events to the WSL schedule and they view this as an excellent opportunity to expose the greater San Luis Obispo County area to a new tourism audience. We have also moved the event from mid-October to late January which will change the dynamic quite a bit.
We want to make California relevant again and give all our surfers, male and female, an equal opportunity to compete within the WSL Qualifying Series system," added McKay. "Morro Bay was such an easy choice for our next venue. Morro Rock is not only a stunning location but the waves are consistent and has the potential to get really good in late February."
2018 Pismo Beach event champion Kirra Pinkerton (USA) is back to defend her title after a win helped project her up the rankings, and also becoming North America's first-ever WSL Junior Champion, heading into 2019 where she became a CT qualification threat. The 17-year-old knows the importance of these events helping to start careers while also providing vital opportunity.
"It's really awesome to have this event back this year, especially because it is around home and it was my first QS win," said Pinkerton. "Plus Pismo is such a fun wave to have an event at so I'm looking forward to it. I love to see all these California events in 2020 because it's a big push for California surfers who don't have the points to get into the bigger events even with the amount of talent they have. I was looking forward to equal pay last year and now that 2020 has started I can see all the motivation in all the girls - it's an incredible opportunity. The QS has never been easy and I feel like it's about to get a lot harder with everyone working harder than ever."
The Jack's Surfboards Pro QS 1,500 returns for a fourth-consecutive year and now includes a women's QS 1,500 event March 26 - 29 at the iconic Huntington Beach, California. The southside of Huntington Beach Pier's arena will play host once more after 2019's event brought world-class conditions for competitors to shine. Now that the women are on board, the event takes another big step in its short history on the QS.
"It means a lot for us to be able to put on an event in our own backyard and give surfers an opportunity to earn valuable QS points," said Jack's Surfboards co-owner Jamal Abdelmuti. "We know the task of trying to qualify for the CT isn't an easy one physically, mentally or financially so we hope our contest in Huntington Beach helps some of the WQS warriors reach their goals. The level of competition in women's pro surfing is so high right now. To showcase that in our event and to provide women with the same opportunity to earn WQS points was an easy decision."
The Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro QS 1,500, Junior Pro and Roxy Junior Pro also returns to Cocoa Beach, Florida, March 12 - 15 to provide an East Coast visit between the California leg of contests. Some of the top competitors 18-and-under, now entering an incredible eighth year of competition, begin their campaigns for a respective Top 3 and Top 2 finish toward World Junior Championship qualification alongside the fifth-consecutive men's QS 1,500.
"Ron Jon Surf Shop, Quiksilver and Roxy are once again excited to be hosting WSL competitions as part of our Eighth Annual Ron Jon Beach 'n Boards Fest," said Event Director Mitch Varnes. "This year will mark a total of 21 separate WSL-sanctioned events we have produced since the creation of Beach 'n Boards Fest, which solidifies Cocoa Beach's place on the global surfing calendar. It is pretty fulfilling to look back at some of the athletes who have surfed in our events and who have gone on to be WSL (Championship) Tour surfers and future Olympians."
The Barbados Surf Pro, a men's and women's QS 3,000, puts an exclamation point between the Ron Jon and Jack's Surfboards Pro with valuable points at the world-class break of Soup Bowl. It's been two years since an event of this caliber held its ground but Louis Venezia and Christopher Clarke, Surf Promotions Barbados Ltd., have helped keep WSL events thriving on the island each November for the last seven years alongside their fellow Barbadians.
"Barbados and the WSL have a long and lasting relationship with this event being our third QS 3,000 in four years," said Venezia. "We have also been hosting a junior event since 2013. It means a lot to our small economy and local surf scene to have an influx of talented surfers from all around the world competing at our home break. Hopefully in the near future we can increase the points on offer to a QS 5,000 or even a Challenger Series event but the ultimate goal is to host a CT event.
Honestly with these events taking place since 2012, and having a tried and proven product, it isn't that difficult to maintain what we have," added Venezia. "Once we go to increase the points on offer that's when it's going to get tougher. I would like to specifically the Barbados Tourism and Marketing Inc for their continued and unwavering support."