Wow, we made it to the end of 2020. The year that seemed like it would never end. What a ride it's been. If you're like me, for the last bunch of months, one day seems to just blend into the other and time has kind of stood still. Looking back on the year in surf, it all started so innocently before things got weird. In case you forgot, here are some of the biggest stories from the year that kept kicking and screaming all the way to the end:
The Pandemic Puts The Breaks On Surfing Around The World
Beaches around the world closed and surfers were left dry docked. As the severity of the coronavirus became more acute in the spring, the unprecedented step of shutting down the ocean to surfing took place in countries the planet over. The moment served as a stark reminder of how important surfing is in all of our lives, but also how we must continue to look out for the health and well-being of our friends, family and neighbors. Thankfully, as this story goes to press, the newly created vaccines are just being administered and there is hope that tomorrow will dawn brighter than today.
The Great Australian Bight Saved
After a long, bitter battle, Norwegian oil company Equinor walked away from its plan to drill in the Great Australian Bight this year. While Equinor said the venture wasn't commercially viable, the decision will be seen as a win for community groups across the country which had fiercely opposed oil drilling in one of the world's most pristine and tempestuous marine environments. They had planned to drill 372 kilometres south of the Nullarbor coastline in the wild Southern Ocean.
Surfers had a vocal role in opposing the plans on behalf of their communities, including a National Day of Action last year which saw thousands paddle out across Australia to let Equnior know it wasn't welcome. Events like this had the support of some of surfing's biggest names, such as Mick Fanning, Stephanie Gilmore, John John Florence and Lakey Peterson, to name just a few.
Equality In Our Lineups Takes On New Urgency
Yes, our lineups need to diversity. Yes, more people need the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from surfing. And yes, that journey was forced to the forefront this year as issues of equality were forced front and center.
Following the death of 46-year-old George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police, protests in all forms have taken place throughout the United States, and carried over to Europe, Australia and New Zealand. In June, paddle-outs in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement took place around the world.
Hundreds of surfers joined together at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, spelling out the word "unity" with their surfboards on the beach before paddling into the water to honor the lives lost to police brutality and systemic racism in America. The event is being organized by Textured Waves, Kindhumans Movement, Changing Tides Foundation, and Salema Masekela.
Nazare Goes Super Sized For Opening Of 2020/21 Big Wave Season
If there was one seminal session in 2020, it had to be Nazare at the end of October. The swell started to kick into overdrive during the afternoon on Wednesday, October 28, and continued to build through the night. Thursday morning dawned with surf that can only be described as all-time. Biggest ever? That depends on who you talk to, but it was definitely one for the history books. It may be a long time before we see Nazare this big and this clean again.
After A Year On Hold, The Championship Tour Is Back
After hitting the pause button for ten months, running a handful of Countdown Series events along the way, by December it was time to get back to crowning World Champions. With a number of sweeping changing in place for the 2021 season, the season kicked off in Hawaii and will culminate at Lower Trestles with the new WSL Finals in September.
Already barriers are being broken as Tyler Wright became the first woman to win a Championship Tour event at Pipeline, besting Carissa Moore in a historic conclusion of the Maui Pro presented by ROXY at Pipeline. Wright's mantra this year: "Surfing is for everyone."
At season's end, the hotbed of American surfing -- San Clemente, California -- will host the inaugural WSL Finals at Lower Trestles. The top five men and top five women on the Jeep Leaderboard at the end of the regular season will head to Orange County for a one-day, winner-take-all shot at the title. The WSL Finals waiting period will run from September 8 - 17, 2021.
The road to get to this moment has undoubtedly been a challenging one as the global community continues to confront the Covid-19 pandemic, but through the dedication and vision of the surfers, League staff and all of the amazing supporters and sponsors, we're about to paddle into a new, unprecedented era in Championship Tour surfing.
The Passing Of A Hawaiian Champion
Derek Ho, the 1993 World Champion, passed away on July 17. He was 55 years old. The iconic Pipeline specialist had recently enjoyed a bountiful winter on the North Shore, and true to form, he was the stand-out on an all-time day at Pipe on New Year's Day in a lineup that included 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater, bodyboard icon Mike Stewart and other chargers such as Nathan Florence and Balaram Stack. Ho was a two-time Pipe Master and a four-time Triple Crown winner, but he made history in 1993 when he became the first Hawaiian surfer to win the World Title.