How The WSL Championship Tour Format Has Changed in 2021

Last updated on: March 4, 2022
How the WSL Championship Tour format has changed in 2021

Photo by Hugo Teles

After a season without the championship tour in 2020, due to Covid-19, WSL introduced some big changes to the format when the 2021 Men’s- and Women’s Championship Tour was announced. If you’re not familiar with all the changes, this article will get you up-to-date and cover some of the pros and cons of the new Championship Tour format.

The surfers usually end the season in Hawaii at the gnarly reef break known as Pipeline, but this year Pipeline became the first stop on tour. Everything has been turned upside down after having an off-season in 2020, and we are stoked about having professional surfing back! (even with all the changes;)

It’s not the first time, that the format of the biggest league in professional surfing has gone through some changes, and we are stoked about this continuous development of the sport we love. However, the new format has been the subject of much discussion, since it brings both pros and cons.

The changes in format

There have been several changes to the format coming into this 2021 season of the championship tour.

  • It will all come down to finals day! The winner of the CT will be found in a single-day event called ‘The WSL Finals’.


  • There will be an equal amount of women’s and men’s CT events: This year we are seeing an equal number of CT events for the men and women. We are extremely stoked about this change, as the women’s CT is becoming more and more popular. The update means that there will be 10 events for both the women and the men this year.


  • The Women will be back surfing Teahupo’o for the first time since 2006. The Women’s CT will join the Men’s, to surf at Teahupo’o in Tahiti. This is known to be one of the most demanding and radical waves on tour. 


  • Two distinct seasons for The Championship (CT) Tour and the Challenger Series(CS): The CS will now run from August to December. The QS will run through to the end of June 2021 and determine who qualifies for the CS. Points gained from QS events that were completed in 2020 have been carried over into 2021.


  • A mid-season cut will be introduced in 2022! In addition to all these changes, we will experience a mid-season cut in the 2022 season of the CT. By reducing the men’s and women’s fields from 36 and 18 to 24 and 12 athletes, at the season’s midway point, events can run within the most optimal swell cycles at locations like G-Land and J-Bay, as well as ensure that the best surfers of the season meet head to head more frequently.

The Rip Curl WSL Finals

The biggest change to the new format has to be the fact that the winner of the world title will be decided in a single-day event, ‘The WLS Finals’. This is a drastic change and no one can feel too comfortable in the world title race this year. The WLS finals event will take place in Lower Trestles, California, USA. At this event, we will experience the top five men and women, compete for the WSL world title.

The new format has been the subject of much discussion since it can be beneficial in terms of making the end of the season more competitive and exciting for the viewers. But at the same time, this format has some noticeable cons.
In a year like this, where Gabrial Medina has dominated the season, it’s a strange thought that a rookie like Morgan Cibilic can end up winning the world tour. Morgan Cibilic has undoubtedly had an incredible season and exceeded everyone’s expectations, but most people will probably agree that surfers like Gabrial Medina and Italo Ferreira, are in a different kind of form. However, this year it all comes down to who has the best shape on finals day.

The WSL 2021 season so far

The WSL Championship Tour just finished the first leg of the year. After starting out at Pipeline, the surfers have had a series of four events taking place across Australia. It looks like both the surfers and the Australian people have loved the intensity of events in Australia.

Gabriel Medina has had a very special start to this season and has taken the lead in the men’s CT. While he usually shines in the last part of the season, we have experienced a different form and approach this year, which have led to four out of five finals and two wins. Despite Gabriel Medinas incredible start, the new CT format means that nothing is sure before the Final-day event.

In The Women’s CT Carissa Moore is leading the league, with Sally Fitzgibbons and Tatiana Weston-Webb as the closest competitors. Carissa Moore is having another great start to the season, following up on her good form from 2019, where she won the world title and her fourth of its kind.

The remaining events of the WSL season

The remaining leg of the season is going to be very diverse and will present everything from wave pool surfing to one of the most gnarly waves on tour, Teahupo’o. The CT will be heading to Mexico for the first time in 15 years and this will for sure be a very special reunion. The CT will also head to Brazil at the Oi Rio Pro presented by Corona. This event is going to be very special, as there is a big dominance by Brazilian surfers this year, where Gabriel Medina is leading the tour and Italo Ferreira is coming in on a close second place.

The remaining events of the season will look as follows:

The new WSL championship tour format in 2021
Photo by World Surf League – The remaining events of the 2021 WSL Championship Tour.

The new format of the tour was introduced with the slogan “Welcome to a new era”. A new era will always bring change. Some will say for the better, while others prefer what they already have. Despite opinions about the new format, we are stoked to have the CT back, and we hope that the changes will bring competition to the next level.

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