The World Surf League has to seriously contemplate restructuring its women's tour

Why are the best women surfers retiring at their career peaks? It's because they’ve come to realize that they have an impossible tour to confront

Cover photo: The extremely talented Malia Manuel said goodbye to professional surfing. Pic: WSL

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The announcement that Malia Manuel and Keely Andrew are retiring from the tour, both at a fully competitive age, 29 and 28-years-old respectively, (in a sport where careers extend up to 40 years of age) gives the WSL a strong signal that they cannot keep insisting with a practically impossible tour such as the women’s present competitive tour.

The men's tour is damned hard, if you look at the list of surfers that never managed to classify. This is a convincing argument in itself. But the women’s tour is even harder.
Five go up and five are left out among more than 100 athletes that compete in the challenger series, and before that, they had to qualify at the regionals.

If this weren’t enough, the female surfer first qualifies to a tour of 16 surfers with the worst pre-qualifying seed and have to give everything they have to make it through the mid-year to ensure re-qualifying.

Let’s think of what happened to Teresa Bonvalot this year: of the four events that add points, she won one, came third in two of them, and came ninth in the fourth. Did she qualify to the Championship Tour? No!

And that is why female surfers are deciding to quit competing, just like Malia Manuel and Keely Andrew, the best in the world at present. Why? Because it’s an impossible tour, or a practically impossible one…. Once managing to qualify, it continues to be impossible to continue at the same level.

The Tour is practically reserved to the Stephs and the Carissas… There’s nothing wrong with boosting their legend status, by the way. But, what happens in the end is that the system does not encourage the sport’s evolution.

Let´s think it another way: In tennis not all the best players manage to compete in the four Grand Slams, but those that compete in the Masters 1000, WTA 500 or 250 events, or even Challengers, can make a career out of that.

Also, it is important to consider that 128 of the best tennis players in the planet qualify to play a Grand Slam. In surfing, only sixteen do!

Events such as those organized by Stab and its Lady Birds have managed a to create a greater evolution in woman’s surfing than those planned by the WSL. The new polemic Pipe Masters itself is also attracting new talents.

Meanwhile, WSL, while speaking of promoting equality, keeps this Championship Tour of 16 that is killing professional female surfing. It should urgently match men’s 32, or increase the number of competitors to 24, in order for the female surfer to consider it attractive to dedicate herself to compete instead of considering other options.

Translation: María Celina McCall