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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa
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Mon, 1 October 2018

The 2018 WSL Big Wave Tour starts today, with all three venues - Mavericks, Jaws and Nazare - in the Northern Hemisphere, and one not quite finalised with the right permits, writes Spike.


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MAKING MAVERICKS: The Californian big wave spot is not official. Photo WSL / Montgomery


Obviously it's Mavericks right? We all know the controversy that has bedevilled the spot. The legal unpacking of the past and revisioning for the future is complex. However, the World Surf League must be feeling confident that the "pending final permit approval by state agencies" is a mere formality.

Or is it? The other reality is that they had to go ahead with the announcement because they had no choice. One hopes not, because a two-horse race would look a lot more diminished than three. In fact, it runs the risk of being lame, to keep with the equine analogy. But at least they now have three of the most legitimate big wave spots on the planet, permits pending.

They also represent three very different parts of the world, one tropical, one cold and kelpy and the other, well, European. If one were to go geographically, you could say that the WSL has covered three bases. Call it 'islands', the Americas and Asia, if you see Europe as an extension of Asia.

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TUBE TIME: Shaun Walsh pulls into a giant cavern at Jaws in Hawaii. Photo WSL / Carbajal


However, no-one speaks of Eurasia: the land mass that comprises Europe and Asia. Thanks to the East-West divide rather than physical separation, they're deemed separate. The world also perceives North and South America as separate continents. That means the BWT is missing Africa, Australia, Asia and South America, never mind Antarctica - a bridge too far.

Sadly, or not so sadly depending on your viewpoint, Dungeons does not feature in the list and probably never will. That would have made an interesting fourth event, or should Mavericks not get the go-ahead, a welcome replacement for cold and kelpy.

How cool would it be to have a dinkum Aussie big wave spot in there? There are obvious scary slabs that are contenders, as there are in South America, although what about Asia? Any spots there?

You have to think budget and resources is a big part of this streamlining. Key also is that having a BWT in the northern hemisphere makes for a homogenised and shorter (and less expensive) swell window. Having a southern and northern winter complicates matters, and makes it too long, which further dilutes the media power.

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NASTY NAZARE: At least these three spots are legitimate big wave venues. Photo WSL / Masurel


But it does feel a bit weird that the southern hemisphere is conveniently cut out of the loop entirely, if of course you put any store in these things. Anyway, here's everything you need to know:

Window
Nazaré Challenge at Leiria, Portugal, 1 Oct 2018 - 31 March 2019
Jaws Challenge at Pe'ahi, Hawaii, 1 Oct 2018 - 31 March 2019
Mavericks Challenge at Half Moon Bay, California, 1 Nov 2018 - 31 March 2019

The Call
The WSL Big Wave team monitors weather charts and big storms crossing the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans with the help of our forecasting partner, Surfline. The waves must be a consistent minimum 25 feet on the face of the wave throughout the entire time of competition. Wind, tide and the effects they have will play a part when making the call.

Yellow Alert: If a large swell is being generated towards one of our contest locations in combination with the right local weather conditions, we will go on Yellow Alert 4 days away from the potential event run date.

Green Alert: 48 hours from the potential run date, WSL Big Wave Commissioner, Mike Parsons, will make the call. Green Alert means that the Big Wave Tour event is ON.

Tour Format
There are three events comprising the men's Big Wave Tour and two events comprising the women's Big Wave Tour. Surfers are awarded points on the basis of their placing in each event, with a "size coefficient" rating adding extra points for contests experiencing extremely large swells. After the final event or at the close of the window on March 31, these points are totaled, and both the male and female competitor with the highest number of points wins the Big Wave World Title.

Event Format
In the men's division, 24 competitors are divided into four heats of six surfers for the first round. Heats are generally 45 minutes and surfers may catch as many waves as they wish with a panel of five judges scoring each ride on a scale of 1 to 10. Each competitor's two best waves are counted, with their best wave being doubled. The three highest scoring surfers advance on to the semifinals, which run in the same format. The final heat is generally one hour in length.

The women's division runs on a similar format with 10 competitors participating in two five-surfer semifinals with the top three in each advancing to their final.

How to Watch
When it's on, you can watch on worldsurfleague.com or Facebook LIVE. For Big Wave updates, follow @wsl or subscribe to email notifications here

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