The 2017 World Surf League Big Wave Tour will be comprised of just three events, and Mike Parsons will take over for Peter Mel as commissioner, the WSL announced in a press release Friday.
Parsons will transition into the role beginning May 1st and will preside over just three events at Nazaré, Pe’ahi, and Puerto Escondido – reducing the number of events to half that of 2016.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished and how far big wave surfing has progressed during my tenure as the Big Wave Commissioner,” said Mel of the transition in a press release. “We have worked hard to elevate the sport to greater heights and open new doors for competitors and fans, and in doing so, we have seen incredible firsts in the sport.”
The press release both celebrates Mel’s contributions to the BWT and big wave surfing at large, most notably adding more events to the tour, and announces major cuts.
“Mel’s accomplishments are detailed with historic achievements for big wave surfing, including the addition of two new locations to the tour, the Puerto Escondido Challenge, and Nazaré Challenge, and the launch of the first Women’s Big Wave Championship event at Pe’ahi,” reads the release.
But the season’s, “[evolution] to focus on three major events,” means events in Punta De Lobos Chile, Pico Alto in Peru, Punta Galea in Spain, Nelscott Reef in the US, and Todos Santos in Mexico have all been axed for 2017. It’s worth noting the release makes no mention of the status of the women’s event at Pe’ahi this year.
Mel says he’ll continue to support the Big Wave Tour and will remain part of the WSL commentary team, but the decision, “will allow [him] to commit more time to [his] family business, Freeline Surf Shop, and let [his] parents finally retire after 48 years.”
Parsons expressed his excitement to take over for Mel. “Big wave surfing has given me so much in my life and I hope that in this role I can give back and continue the amazing work that Pete has done,” he said. “I am excited to focus my attention on helping create a clear path for young, up-and-coming big wave surfers around the world to pursue his or her dreams of becoming the next BWT Champion.”
Along with the cuts to the schedule and new leadership, the WSL announced it will expand the avenue for BWT qualification. In the past, surfers have qualified through their placing in the Surfline Best Overall Performace category at the WSL Big Wave Awards. Now, instead of four surfers making their qualification dreams a reality per year, six surfers will be given the opportunity to compete.