WSL events for WA and NSW, with Queensland set to miss out due to border issues

Australia World

In a huge coup for New South Wales, Narrabeen on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and Newcastle will host two Championship Tour events for the Australian leg of the World Surf League in April 2021.

The event would usually be staged on Queensland’s Gold Coast at Snapper Rocks, but the State Government and world surfing organisers could not agree on terms because of border restrictions.

“When the WSL scanned the world for the safest beaches to relocate some of their prized Championship Tour events, NSW was the first choice,” Deputy Premier John Barilaro said.

“We have shown our ability to host premier events while keeping people safe,”

It’s Narrabeen’s first world tour event in more than 20 years, while Newcastle hasn’t hosted an event of this scale in 30 years.

The world’s premier surfers will arrive in Australia on a charter flight on March 8 and have to get through two weeks of quarantine before competing in Newcastle and Narrabeen.

“Those surfers and key international support staff will do the full 14-day quarantine, that is not being funded by the NSW government,” World Surf League Asia Pacific general manager Andrew Stark said.

“We are very grateful for the governments allowing these athletes to come into the country that enables all of these events to happen.”

WA to also host two events

A surfer takes on the huge swell at Snapper Rocks.A surfer takes on the huge swell at Snapper Rocks.
There will be no WSL competition at Snapper Rocks in 2021.(ABC News: Dominic Cansdale)

The Western Australian Government is also on board to host two events, the Margert River Pro from May 2-12 and the Rottnest Search on May 16-26.

“After we leave NSW we are going on a charter flight to WA, the state government has agreed to provide us a pre-approved quarantine hub so if borders shut we are able to move to that state in a bubble,” Stark said.

It is a big loss for Queenslanders, but the challenges proved too great in agreeing how the event would go ahead.

“It’s been extremely disappointing to cancel the Gold Coast tour event but we were unable to secure pre-approved bubbles to cross those borders in an event that they shut,” Stark said.

The NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes was scathing of Queensland’s approach.

“There’s a fair bit of satisfaction [in taking the event from Queensland],” Stokes said.

“Here we are seeing the consequences of knee-jerk lockdowns. Our government is looking at a sensible, measured approach and trying to keep things as normal as possible.”

The high profile Bells Beach event in Victoria has also been canned.

Surfer Courtney Conlogue at the top of a wave at the Bells Beach tournament.Surfer Courtney Conlogue at the top of a wave at the Bells Beach tournament.
Bells Beach will return to the calendar in 2022.(AAP/Supplied by World Surf League via Getty Images: Kelly Cestari)

“Dealing with a pandemic, all sports have had to take a turn and pivot — the MCG didn’t host the AFL grand final last year,” Stark said.

The remainder of the 2021 Championship Tour includes events in Brazil, South Africa, Tahiti and the United States — a huge gamble considering the severity of the pandemic in those countries.

“We’ve got a lot of time to deliver those 10 events, we are very confident of delivering the four in Australia, five will be done by the end of May and we’ve got a few months to deliver the others,” Stark said.

COVID-19 concerns in the hard hit Northern Beaches

A man standing in the street talking. A man standing in the street talking.
Michael Regan said the community remained positive during December’s COVID lockdown.(ABC News)

The Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan isn’t concerned about mass gatherings, with thousands of spectators set to converge on the beaches.

“No, I have no issues, the state government has done a lot to make us COVID safe and COVID aware,” he said.

“We can have gathering of people outdoors managed effectively, I am very confident we can manage that, even in the first lock down we kept the beaches open here.”

He believes another local outbreak would not stop the event from going ahead.

“There’s always a management plan in place, but we just ran the Cole classic and the Sun Run in Manly, which had 4,000 runners,” Mr Regan said.

The high profile event will inject an estimated $15 million into the Northern Beaches, which was hard hit by coronavirus shutdowns over the busy summer period.

“This highly coveted Championship Tour will bring much-needed tourism dollars into local shops, cafes, restaurants and Airbnb’s and ensures those businesses can at least look forward to a couple of good months ahead,” Mr Stokes said.

Surf’s finally up

Owen Wright after winning the event at Snapper RocksOwen Wright after winning the event at Snapper Rocks
Owen Wright won the 2019 event at Snapper Rocks.(Source: WSL:Cestari)

Coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the surfing competitions in the lead up to the Olympic games in Tokyo.

Most surfers around the world missed out on competing last season.

“Surfers like myself, we’ve been on tour for 10 years and just had the year off, a big break,” Australian WSL surfer Owen Wright said.

“We are refreshed and feeling that spark. Then for the rookies, they haven’t been able to sink their teeth in and feel like that’s been taken away from them, so they’ll be coming back hungry as ever.”

It’s a huge plus for Australia’s medal prospects at the Olympics.

Starting the tour on home soil is an extra bonus.

“I’m stoked, when I got the call this was going to happen at Narrabeen, my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree… knowing the rich history this event has here and having competed here at the world juniors when I was younger,” Wright said.

Surfers were scheduled to start the year in Hawaii, but didn’t surf a wave because of the pandemic.

“I’m so appreciative we are getting this tour back on the road, I get to live my passion and keep competing; as surfers, we are over the moon, hopefully we all put on a good show,” Wright said.