Huntington and Biarritz Added to World Tour

Women's U.S. Open No Longer a WQS Event

| posted on April 28, 2011

Sage Erickson at the U.S. Open in 2010. This year, she'll have to make it through rounds of trials to even get an opportunity to surf this event. Photo: Van Swae

It was announced last week that the U.S. Open at Huntington Beach will now be a World Tour stop for the women. Then yesterday, Biarritz, France, was added to the schedule, rounding out this year’s Tour de Mediocrity:

Snapper, Australia
Bells Beach, Australia
Taranaki, New Zealand
Northern Beaches, Sydney, Australia
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Huntington Beach, California
Biarritz, France

A far cry from the golden age a few years back, when the females made their rounds through the diverse, world-class lineups of Teahupoo, Tavarua, Honolua, Hossegor, Sunset, and, interestingly, Malibu.

Even last year saw a better lineup of events:

Honolua was struck from the schedule last year by Billabong and replaced with a higher-purse event in Rio in May. For Billabong, it just didn’t make sense to have a girls’ event at Honolua at the same time as the Men’s Pipe Masters. Reasonably (yet unfortunately), the low return on investment made the event not worth their while.

Then this year, perhaps coincidentally (perhaps not), two more events on the women’s side—the Rip Curl Portugal event and the Rip Curl Search event, both of which ran the women’s competition simultaneously alongside the men’s events in 2010—were scratched from the schedule following World Champ Steph Gilmore’s switch from Rip Curl to another sponsor.

Sponsorship issues have always plagued the Women’s World Tour. For most surf brands, the competitive side of the sport often takes a subsidiary role to the mass-market lifestyle the brands promote. Often, if the brands don’t have a world-title contender on Tour, they’re not willing to make the massive investment required to run an event. For the World Tour surfers, the addition of another event—any event, at this point—is welcomed. But for the WQS surfers, many who have relied on the U.S. Open to earn valuable ratings points toward qualification, this isn’t an “addition” at all.

Here are some reactions from a few of the girls:

Coco Ho, World Tour No. 6

“Since we’ve lost so many events so far this year, I think it was a good idea. Although Huntington isn’t premier, a few other waves on Tour deliver less than what HB can, so I’m excited we get the chance to put on a show in front of the crowds for more valuable points and prize money.”

Malia Manuel, WQS surfer and 2008 U.S. Open champ

“Huntington was the event I was most looking forward to this year! And since I’ve gotten off to a bad start on the WQS, I was hoping to redeem some valuable points there! But I see the WCT girls need another event, so I think it actually was a good decision. Just not favorable for me personally.”

Claire Bevilacqua, World Tour first alternate

“It’s just another shitty wave on Tour, really. I would rather surf 48th Street in Newport, but it’s good for the WCT girls because there are hardly any events.”

Sage Erickson, WQS surfer

“I think that the US Open transforming into a Women’s World Tour event is a massive indicator for great things to come in the sport. The US Open has the media coverage and support to bring the level of women’s surfing to the next stage of recognition. We need this to attract sponsorship for future events to build the prestige tour like format that the men compete in. Sad loss for the QS competitors, but in the long run will be highly beneficial to all of us.”

What do you think?

  • FriscoDisco

    Sounds like the women are getting hosed yet again.

  • Jay

    Sage seems very sharp, but I like Claire response: Quality over quantity of media coverage. Coco dropped in on Layne so forget her.

  • johnny

    rip curl shouldnt be dropping events left and right because they lost steph. they still have tyler sitting at no. 3 to market their brand! Another factor that might be playing a role in the lack of contests is that Carissa has sponsors like red bull and nike 6.0 and they arent the usuall sponsors for womens CT events.

  • jeff

    Carissa rides for Red Bull, Nike, and Target. The fact that none of these companies sponsor a girls contest is such a joke, but then again so is the schedule. I feel bad for the 5 girls that can actually surf on the women’s tour…

  • chard

    i have daughters that compete locally so i watch the ct girls events to see the level, but i could not watch new zealand. the waves where so bad every time i tuned in! huntington can do the same thing…lame surf. lets hope for good conditions.