What is the World Surf League?

Surfing is a great option for outdoor activities for real extreme people. Although this sport has gained its popularity relatively recently, it already has a large army of fans and followers. It is the seascapes, the sun, the air and the feeling of flying on the waves that so attract many fans. To date, there are even special surf schools that train real professionals who show world-class skills.
What is the World Surf League?

What is the surfing?

Surfing is a great option for outdoor activities for real extreme people. Although this sport has gained its popularity relatively recently, it already has a large army of fans and followers. It is the seascapes, the sun, the air and the feeling of flying on the waves that so attract many fans. To date, there are even special surf schools that train real professionals who show world-class skills.

The World Surf League (WSL) is the governing body for professional surfers and is dedicated to showcasing the world's most talented in a variety of progressive formats.

The World Surfing League was originally known as the International Professional Surfing League, founded by Fred Hemmings and Randy Rarick in 1976.

IPS has created the world's first professional surfing competition network. In 1983, the Association of Surfing Professionals took over the management of the world track. In 2013, ASP was acquired by ZoSea with support from Paul Speaker, Terry Hardy and Dirk Ziff.

At the start of the 2015 season, ASP changed its name to World Surf League. Paul Speaker stepped down as CEO on January 11, 2017, and Dirk Ziff served as interim CEO of WSL until Goldschmidt's appointment.

As of December 2017, the WSL had over 6.5 million Facebook fans, surpassing more well-known sports such as the National Hockey League, Tennis Professionals Association, Major Football League. The Sports Business Journal reported that 28 million hours of WSL digital video content were consumed in the 2017 season, making WSL the third most popular online sport in the United States after the NFL and NBA.

In January 2018, Forbes reported that WSL had signed an exclusive $ 30 million digital broadcasting rights agreement with Facebook over 2 years.

Eric Logan, former President of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and Executive Vice President of Harpo Studios, was named CEO of WSL on January 14, 2020.

History: predecessors

  • From 1964 to 1972, the International Surfing Federation (ISF) hosted the World Surfing Championships as one event every two years and was open to everyone.
  • 1973 to 1975, Smirnoff World-Am Pro Surfing Championships, sometimes referred to as the de facto professional world championship. The FIS was unable to establish a format or sponsorship, so there were no official amateur championships between 1973 and 1975.
  • From 1976 to 1982, International Professional Surfers, founded by Fred Hemming and Randy Rarick, was the world's original governing body for professional surfing.

The predecessors of WSL refer to which organizations at the time mostly represented individual professional surfers. This is an important point because the International Surfing Federation still functions as the International Surfing Association and also names the winners of the competition as world champions (or a variety of them).

The Surfing Professionals Association took over the management of professional surfing in 1983 and became world champions until 2015, when the organization was renamed the World Surf League. WSL has remained the dominant surfing organization and authorized body for professional surfers since its inception. The first world champions were Tom Carroll (men) and Kim Merig (women) in the 1983/84 to 1988 season, when the competition returned to a calendar basis. This means that Damian Hardman and Wendy Botha were named World Champions for the 1987/88 season, and Barton Lynch and Freida Zamba were named World Champions for the Shortened 1988 season. The first WSL World Champions in 2015 were Adriano de Sousa (BRA) and Karissa Moore (HAW).

In March 2015, WSL launched a free downloadable app with over a million downloads in its first year. The app provides updated competition information in real time and provides personalized alerts to let fans know when their favorite athletes are about to enter the water.

In April 2016, the World Surfing League launched WSL PURE, its charitable initiative to support ocean health through research, education and advocacy. WSL PURE has contributed an initial $ 1.5 million in funding that will support scientists at Columbia University's Lamotte-Doherty Earth Observatory conducting research on ocean health and ecosystems, ocean acidification, sea level rise and the role of the oceans in climate.

Equal pay for athletes in 2019

On September 5, 2018, the World Surfing League announced equal pay for all WSL women's and men's tournaments. CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said, “This is a huge step forward from our long-planned strategy to develop womens surfing, and we're thrilled to make a commitment as we unveil our new 2019 schedule ...). The announcement sparked a debate about equal pay for professional athletes, and the world praised the WSL for its leadership. Seven-time world surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore said: “I hope this will serve as a model for other sports, global organizations and society at large. My fellow athletes and I are proud to trust us and are inspired to be rewarded for this decision with eternal reward.

Impact of COVID-19

On March 14, 2020, WSL canceled all events “for the remainder of March,” including the 2020 Championship Tour Opening Event on the Gold Coast Australia and the Papara Pro Open.

On March 16, the cancellations were extended to the end of May.

In January 2021, other events were canceled: Sunset, Big Wave Jaws Championship Pe'ahi and Santa Cruz Pro.

WSL World Championship

How does the World Surfing Championship work?

The WSL World Title Race is used to determine the men's and women's world title. The winner is named WSL Tour Champion.

The WSL Men's World Title is awarded to the surfer with the most points out of the top 9 results in 11 WSL World Tour events.

The WSL Women's World Championship is awarded to surfers who have achieved the most of their top 8 results in 10 WSL Women’s Championship Tour events.

Tours to the championship

Discover the 11 stages of the World Surfing Championship

The winners of the event will win a total of US $ 100,000. The total prize pool per event in the men's competition is $ 607,800, and for women it is only $ 420,800, as they have fewer surfers on the tour.

The results of the competition are converted into points and count towards the world title race, the surfers with the most points at the end of the competition schedule are considered the world surf champions.

WSL Qualifier Events

Surfers who are currently not eligible for Championship Tour (CT) events can participate in Qualifying Series (QS) events, earning points to qualify for CT next year.

The top qualifiers will receive invitations at the end of the QS of each season, with the exact number of invitations varying from season to season. In addition, if there are not enough CTs in a particular CT competition in the current season, the judges may select one of the then best QS surfers to replace for that event - although this does not guarantee that the QS surfer will be invited to other events in the current season. ...



In competition, surfers will be rated on a scale of 0.1 to 10.0, broken down by one tenth. The following scale can be used to correlate the description with the rating:

  • 0 - 1.9 = bad;
  • 2.0 - 3.9 = satisfactory;
  • 4.0 - 5.9 = average;
  • 6.0 - 7.9 = good;
  • 8.0 - 10.0 = excellent.

Criteria for evaluation

The judges will base their judging on how well the surfers are at displaying the following elements in each wave:

  • Obligations and degree of difficulty;
  • Innovative and progressive maneuvers;
  • A combination of basic maneuvers;
  • Variety of maneuvers;
  • Speed, power and consumption.

These elements can be weighted differently from day to day and from event to event, depending on the surfing conditions and the type of breaking wave at each event location.


There are many rules in the water, which are based on the idea of ​​preferential passage. The surfer takes precedence if he or she is closer to the area where the wave is breaking, this is more commonly referred to as an interior position. If another surfer flies in front of a surfer in an indoor position, an interference will be declared and penalties will be applied.

A surfer can also be found guilty of interference if he catches more than the maximum number of waves during a run, and this deprives other participants of the ability to catch waves.

The preemptive rules differ slightly depending on the type of break. Point Breaks will always have a constant direct view of what is inside, meaning the person further down the line will have priority. In a situation with one peak, when there is both left and right, two people can be on the wave at the same time, provided that one goes to the left and the other to the right, and neither of them crosses the path of the other in order to move in the same direction ... If this happens, then the surfer who got up first will have the advantage. On a multi-faceted wave, where the wave eventually converges together, you can ride on both peaks until the surfers come together. When they do this, the surfer who gets up first has the advantage and the other must maneuver to get off the wave without interfering with the other surfer.

In head-to-head competitions, priority may be declared by the head judge. As soon as the person with priority rowing for the wave, priority is transferred to the next person until he does the same. The person with the second priority can row the waves as long as it does not interfere with the other person, who will lose their priority only if they catch the wave.

A surfer who has already taken off or has mastered the wave will maintain this position until the end of the trip. If another surfer exits from within that surfer, then that person does not receive priority and is considered a snake. If this surfer does not harm other surfers, then both people can be judged on a basis. If the judges determine that the snake really interfered, then the person will be punished.

Interference penalties are imposed by the judges and must have a majority vote to be declared a valid penalty. Disturbances are shown as triangles on scorecards in different ways, depending on when and where they were generated. If three or more waves are counted, then one wave will be removed from the points card. If only the top two waves are evaluated, then 50% of the second wave with the best result will be removed. If the surfer has more than one, then 50% of the best waves will also be filmed.

A surfer who is thwarted will be allowed an extra wave up to the maximum if it is within the allotted time. If the surfer intervenes more than two times in a race, he must leave the competition area.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the World Surf League structure its events and competitions, and what impact has it had on professional surfing?
The World Surf League structures its events into a series of championships at various global locations. It has significantly impacted professional surfing by elevating the sport's profile, standardizing competition formats, and promoting surfing talent worldwide.

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