For all its quality surf – especially a little world-class left point named Raglan – New Zealand is curiously underrepresented on the World Surf League Championship Tour and Qualifying Series schedules. Likely because it often gets overshadowed by the countless events in Australia. According to documents obtained by the New Zealand Herald, though, that may soon change with efforts on the part of the WSL to bring a QS 10,000 event to Piha Beach outside of Auckland.
The Piha Pro, as the event will reportedly be called, will take place in March 2020 if permitting goes smoothly. And as most QS 10,000 events often do, it will attract the Qualifying Series’ top talent as well as CT athletes hoping to ensure their birth into the main tour in 2021.
Buried in the Herald‘s reporting is a curious fact. “It’s also understood that discussions have been held with arguably the greatest surfer of all time, 11-times men’s world champion, Kelly Slater,” the story reads. “The legendary American is believed to be keen to head Down Under to use the event as preparation for the season-opening event on Australia’s Gold Coast. Slater was in Piha earlier this year and is thought to have loved his time.”
At first glance, Kelly Slater’s attendance of a March QS event in New Zealand as a season warm-up isn’t all that strange. Until, that is, you consider the 11-time world champ has teased his retirement from the Tour for some time. According to the Herald, though, Slater is already making preparations for next year. In other words, at present, it seems we can count on seeing Slater competing full time at least through 2020.
The visibility of the event and economic impact predictions in the WSL’s documents are staggering (and a little tough to get our heads around): 600 million viewers on TV and the web, 20,000 attendees in-person, $10 million injected into the local economy.
In addition, the League is pitching the event as “the most sustainable event in New Zealand with activations Auckland-wide inspiring, educating, and actioning Kiwis to take care of the world where we live.”
The report points to most New Zealand officials being on board with the plan. But the story concludes rather ominously: “All that seems to be stopping the Piha Pro from happening is money,” it reads.