Sydney is the latest in a string of humongous cities recently bestowed with ASP events as The Australian Open of Surfing (an extension of the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach) will hit Manly Beach in February. The 2011 World Tour schedule is packed with the likes of Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, and New York City. Sydney is the most logical addition to what many consider the Dream-gone-City Tour 2012. Although technically, the Oz Open isn’t part of the “World Tour;” it’s a 6-star comp that’s sanctioned by the ASP.
Despite a fair amount of grumbling from the surf community about non-paradisiacal backdrops and less-than-perfect waves, Evan Slater, Hurley’s VP of Surf Marketing, doesn’t see city surfing as a drag. In fact, he claims the push for urban contest destinations came from the surfers.
“Really, we listen to them. A lot of these guys have basically been surfing in isolation for a big part of their career, and I think so long as it stays balanced and it doesn’t turn into the Big City tour, those few city events are fun for them. That’s why so many of the best surfers are coming to the U.S. Open every year. That’s why they are excited about New York.”
We’re all hoping that the Oz Open and the remainder of the city events will produce better-than-Rio waves, but even if they don’t, Slater is confident that we’re in for a solid show.
“We’re certainly cautious about tipping the scales back to a bunch of crap waves,” says Slater.
“The surfers are so good now that I don’t think they mind an average wave,” he says. “They can do so much with it.”
Hurley has teamed up with Billabong to organize the contest, and they aim to bring a world-class event back to the first Aussie surf beach.
“We’re looking at the playbook of the U.S. Open,” explains Slater, “so we wanted it to be a city-oriented event, and Manly is near where modern surfing actually began when Duke brought surfing over there to Australia. Also, Manly has been the site of a lot of great events of the past, [like] world title battles. It’s kind of the Huntington of Sydney, so it just made sense to have it there.”
Billabong’s World Junior Title (WJT) series will also move from Narrabeen to Manly and become part of the Australian Open.
Billabong CEO Derek O’Neill has said, “Hurley has a great event in the US Open of Surfing and Billabong has the premier event in world junior surfing, so it made sense to bring those properties together to celebrate both the history and future of one of Australia’s greatest sports.”
Like the U.S. Open, the Australian open will feature skating, music, fashion, and art in addition to the main draw: surfing. Notably, though, the crowd in Manly is expected to be considerably smaller than that in Huntington Beach: 125,000 vs. 500,000, respectively.