The WSL released the 2016/2017 schedule for the Big Wave Tour today. On the roster, for the very first time, is a Women’s Championship event.
The event will run between October 15, 2016 and February 28, 2017, and will take place alongside the men’s event at either Pe’ahi or Todos Santos, depending on the Commissioner’s call. Who will be included in this event is also up to the Commissioner’s office, at least for this first year. Each successive year, the women will be selected based off the rating system established at 2016/17’s inaugural event.
The announcement marks a huge moment for women’s big-wave surfing. In the past, women’s involvement in big-wave competition has been slight. In 2011 and 2014, women were invited to participate in a single, all-women’s heat at the WSL Oregon Challenge, held at Nelscott Reef (in 2014). But this looks to be the beginning of something more permanent and long-term.
“We got a little taste of big-wave competition in 2014, but it just fizzled out,” says Ocean Beach, San Francisco and Mavericks regular Bianca Valenti. “So this is great. I actually started crying when I found out. Being a part of a big-wave event isn’t just something I’ve been thinking about for a year or two. It’s been a dream for a long time. I talked to Gary Linden earlier this year, and he told me that the best way to start a tour is to have one event, just like they did in Biarritz for the Women’s Longboarding Tour, and then it’ll be easier to build a following and gain sponsors for more events.”
According to Valenti, having an all-women’s big-wave event is exactly what the sport needs. “I think competition gives you a great platform to progress,” says Valenti. “It’ll be great to have that media coverage to show other young girls and women that anything is possible. This will give them something to identify with, and more role models. Hopefully it’ll result in more women in waves of consequence.”
Whether or not this single event evolves into a full-fledged women’s world tour remains to be seen. But hell, it’s a good start.