After months of postponements, the WSL finally cancelled the 2020 season completely this past week, due to ongoing health concerns and travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this news did not come as a surprise, it was still a blow for the local surfers and community members in the various event host cities, especially France, where the longtime Quik Pro has been dropped from the tour.
Over the years, the world tour has helped shaped the cultures and social/surf scenes in locales such as Rio, Jeffreys Bay, Peniche, and Torquay, and also drawn in hundreds of millions of dollars of tourism-related business to local communities. The loss of even one year’s event can have major repercussions for a host city. The permanent loss of an event—as we saw in Fiji a few years ago—can be devastating.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what will be happening next year at one of the tour’s favorite European stops.
In the 2021 season, the event in Hossegor, France, is gone, and downgraded to a Challenger Series event (the new equivalent of a QS10,000). This change is ostensibly due to the fact that the WSL will be running an abbreviated world tour schedule from December through August, and France’s prime surf season is in the fall, between September and November.
The loss of the Hossegor event is a major blow to the French surf community, which has a thriving surf scene and some of the most passionate, dedicated fans in the sport. While the Challenger Series event will still draw crowds to watch many of the world’s best surfers duke it out for a spot on the world tour, it will lack the prestige of a WT event, and the local community could see some major financial and cultural changes.
In particular, there is likely to be a shift in event sponsorship, as well as less overall income for local businesses during the waiting period. In addition, local surfers will lose out on an opportunity to compete against the world’s best via event wild cards.
French world tour competitor and former winner of the Quik Pro France Jeremy Flores spoke out on Instagram about the announcement, saying, “I’m devastated by the news of the cancellation of this legendary event, more than anyone … The fact that there is (now) only one event in Europe is extremely deceiving. Europe has shown more than once their passion for surfing.” Fortunately, he continues, “@quiksilver announced they wish to keep the Pro France as a QS challenger series in October. This is good for the local community. I’ve been in touch with the @wsl. It’s a transition year…COVID19, new formats, etc. ... They’ve ensured me that good things will come in the following years for France and Europe. There’s some great people making sure of a better future. In the meantime, let’s continue to send strength to all the Euros fighting on different tours to make it on top.”
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I’ve been getting lot of shit on why I’m not talking about the cancellation of the Pro France. I’m Devastated by the news of the cancellation of this legendary event, more than anyone. With the new calendar, only option to have this event was in winter wich isn’t great. The fact that there is only 1 event in Europe is extremely deceiving. Europe has shown more than once their passion for surfing. In the other hand, @quiksilver announced they wish to keep the Pro France as a QS challenger series in October. This is good for the local community. I’ve been in touch with the @wsl . Its a transition year, COVID19, new formats etc... they’ve insured me that good things will come in the following years for France & Europe. There’s some great person making sure of a better future. In the meantime let’s continu to send strength to all the euros fighting on different tours to make it on top. Ça fait plusieurs jours qu’on me demande pourquoi je ne prends pas position au sujet des annonces publiées par la WSL récemment,en particulier sur l’annulation de l’épreuve légendaire du Quik Pro France. C’est terrible pour le surf français, l’économie locale et les passionnés de surf. J’en suis le premier déçu. L’annonce du nouveau calendrier sur 6 mois laissait peu de choix à Quiksilver. L’étape en plein hiver n’aurait pas eu la même saveur. En revanche Quiksilver a annoncé qu’il souhaiterait continuer le Pro France en octobre, cette fois en QS challenger séries, ce qui est bien pour la communauté locale. Le fait qu’il n’y ait qu’une étape du world tour en Europe est très décevante.Les Européens ont montré plus d’une fois qu’ils étaient passionnés de surf, ils méritent mieux. Je suis en contacte avec la WSL depuis quelques jours. Cela fait plusieurs années que je « ferme ma bouche », c’est important cette fois de ne pas se laisser faire. Ils m’assurent que de bonnes choses s’apprêtent à être mis en place pour le surf français / européen dans l’année qui va suivre cette période compliquée de crise. Je pense que la Wsl réalise l’importance de ne pas enterrer le surf européen. En attendant, continuons à soutenir les Français sur le tour pour qu’ils continuent à monter en puissance.
ASP competitor, current surf coach, and all around French surfing legend Didier Piter to get his take on the announcement. “It’s a shock, considering how much the surfers loved it, and what it means to win in Hossegor,” Piter said. “The essence of surfing is to feel, anticipate, and adapt to change, and Hossegor is the perfect arena to challenge surfers in this way.
You know what to expect at Pipeline or Teahupoo, but Hossegor has the magic of the unexpected, and that has to be kept on tour
“You know what to expect at Pipeline or Teahupoo, but Hossegor has the magic of the unexpected, and that has to be kept on tour. This venue has produced amazing performances, and winning in Hossegor really means you are a complete surfer. I think the surfers will miss this event, and it will eventually be back on the schedule.”
French pro Maxime Huscenot was rated 18th on the QS when the 2020 season was prematurely ended in March, and agrees that the cancellation of the event is “a big loss for France and Europe. It is the event that everyone here looks forward to, like Roland-Garros in tennis. It’s going to be strange to lose that feeling. But if they run a Challenger Series event, that could be a great opportunity for all of the surfers from Europe to have an important qualifying event at home and in good waves. It’s really sad (to lose the world tour event), but hopefully this will be a boost for those of us who have dreamt of competing on the world tour. The crowd is awesome every year, so hopefully everyone will froth out and still come to Hossegor to enjoy some epic barrels and a great event.”
Meanwhile, Jorgann Couzeinet added: “The Quiksilver Pro France, me, is an iconic contest. I've been watching every season since I started surfing - and every year since then I have been fighting to be a wildcard. It’s definitely sad news for the French community and Europe. I just hope that there is going to be a solution to put it back on the schedule."
While it appears that the decision to remove France from the world tour schedule is final, we agree with Maxime in hoping that the amazing French fans will continue to show up in Hossegor for the event, regardless of its new status as a Challenger Series event.
While the barrels of La Graviere and La Nord are certainly a draw, it has always been the local people and culture that have made the world tour event in France so memorable, and that won’t change, regardless of tour schedules and contest venues. The passion of the grassroots surf community has always been strong along this stretch of coast, and we look forward to joining the people of Hossegor in celebrating our amazing sport and lifestyle for years to come.
Cover shot by Damian Davila