World champions in surfing will start being crowned in a one-day, surf-off format in 2021, a change from the season-long title race of the Championship Tour.
World Surf League CEO Erik Logan cited last year’s men’s title race that came down to the last heat of the eight-month, 11-contest season at the Billabong Pipe Masters on Oahu’s North Shore in December.
Italo Ferreira prevailed over Gabriel Medina in a battle of Brazilians, who are medal favorites for the sport’s Olympic debut next year.
“We’re very fortunate that all of the elements aligned for it to happen, but as we know, it’s not every year that we get a world championship heat,” Logan said, noting discussions on the change began before the coronavirus pandemic. “Starting next year, the world champions will be determined in a single day of thrilling competition, the ultimate finals day and the last day of the Championship Tour season with the top men and the top women battling for their respective titles in a new, surf-off format.”
Logan said the surfer ranked No. 1 through the Championship Tour regular season will have “a distinct advantage” going into the final surf-off day. More details will be announced in July. How the new format will affect Olympic qualifying for Paris 2024, when surfing will be held in Tahiti, is unknown.
This season, all World Surf League contests through June have been postponed due to the coronavirus. The next status update will come June 1.
“Where and when we will run this year is still very much an open question,” Logan said.
Most of the Olympic surfing field is set, led by the top 10 men and top eight women from the 2019 season standings, maximum two per country. The U.S. qualifiers were world champion Carissa Moore and runner-up Caroline Marks and Kolohe Andino and John John Florence, who beat out Kelly Slater.
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