WSL’s Mid-Season Cut: Women’s Side

WSL’s Mid-Season Cut: Women’s Side

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Carissa Moore Getting Barreled

“Stop five at Margaret River is unbelievable because of this mid-season cut!” states a jubilant Joe Turpel at the top of their newly renamed post-surf show, The GWM Catch Up.  

This season, I’ve actually enjoyed The Catch Up in its many different sponsored variations. I think the concept is particularly useful to any sport trying to draw in viewers – which they all are.  

The problem with The Catch Up is that it’s being produced by the WSL, so you’re never going to get the full unadulterated story. 

Any show that the WSL produces about itself is most certainly going to be saturated with their unique wave blindness, back-breaking positivity, and uncanny inability to commit their point-of-view to even the simplest of statements.   

Joe Turpel puts this on full display when he exclaims a little later in the show, “We woke up this morning and I think I saw bigger sets than yesterday!” 

I think.

Just tell us if they were bigger or not.  It’s such a strange thing for a surf announcer to not be able to definitively say whether or not the waves were bigger than the day before.  

Just tell us, Joe! 

The way The Catch Up can really be of interest and entertainment is if it is done by a third party.  Why do you think ESPN Sportscenter is so successful? 

It reports on the leagues it covers. It’s not the league reporting on itself. And as such, they offer humor, opinions, controversy, and critique.

The WSL, theoretically, can still produce The Catch Up, but it can’t be hosted by one of their chief announcers who are paid, quite obviously, to maintain the status quo of rainbows and butterflies.  

They’ll need a new host – or two – to anchor the show. 

More crucial than that, however, they need to let these hosts run free.  Let ‘em rip.  

I have a short list of possible candidates who I think would be good fits to host the new and revamped The Catch Up.

Short List:

Martin Potter: This is probably going to be controversial for this made-up show of mine, but hear me out. He’s proven he can work within the WSL, and it’s not always great, but we know deep down that’s not who Pottz really iz, right? If he does agree to be on the show, he has to sign a contract that he’ll reignite his hotheaded days of youth. Maybe cuss a little a bit? I don’t know. Hopefully, the free reign of this yet-to-be-realized show will finally see him to truly blossom as a commentator.

Luke Egan: Every time Luke Egan comes onto the broadcast he offers wonderful insight and critique, which is probably why he’s not on very often. Him alongside a bit more of a wildcard could play well.

Shane Dorian: Can you say the Joe Rogan of surfing? With a wealth of knowledge and experience to rely on, Shane-o is a curious and thoughtful person. He’s also acted before (In God’s Hands). As a co-host, I think he’s got the capability to give us more gems like, “No kook has ever won Bells.”

Kelly Slater: If the man decides his time has come to an end, I would love to see him host a show like this. It would have to be more than just a catch up, though. He’s far too interesting and polarizing. It would need to be a full half-hour segment at the very least. With a photographic memory, no one is more critical, knowledgable, and passive aggressive than the Great One.

Kelly comes in at 1:35

Moving on, because I’m not here to talk about the announcers or post-shows.  I’m here because my last article outlined who made the cut and who missed it on the men’s side.  

As you’ll recall, the great Kelly Slater was hacked from the field of competitors like a malignant tumor.  As is par for the course with these things, I have a feeling Kelly will be back.  

But if he does decide to ride off into the sunset, I hope his agent has the professional fortitude to know a bonafide BLOCKBUSTER when he sees one and gives me a ring about the Board in the Stone

To have the Great One sign onto the project this early in development would be a masterful stroke of luck. 

My fingers are crossed, though I know it’s much more likely we will see Slater competing at both the Surf Ranch and in Tahiti, at the very least.  Should he win either contest, he’ll no doubt qualify for next year’s tour.  

Personally, I want him to surf competitively for as long as he can. 

King Slater did not survive the mid-season cut

The mid-season cut has now been performed on the women’s side and 8 surfers have been relegated to the Challenger Series. 

Surfers who missed the cut: 
Mid-season cut victims

The notable misses here are the two veterans, Courtney Conologue and Sally Fitzgibbons.  Also on the wrong side of the slash is last year’s fifth place finisher Brisa Hennessy.  

Surfers who made the cut:
Mid-Season Cut Survivors

It feels, at least partially, like a changing of the guard in a way with such a stronghold of young talented female surfers making the cut. 

Oceanside native Caitlin Simmers and Australian Molly Picklum headline the plucky gang of young guns.  They’re also joined by Hawaiian standouts Bettylou Sakura Johnson and Gabriela Bryan.  

Former champions Carissa Moore, Stephanie Gilmore, and Tyler Wright also made the cut as they look to fend off the hungry pups in the latter half of the season.  

Female surfing is in good hands.

On both the men’s and women’s side, it’s going to be interesting to see what the surfers relegated to the Challenger Series decide to do.  

Many of them will dive straight back into competition and look to secure their position for next year’s tour.  

But there will most likely be some surprises, as well.  Who is going to decide to take some time off for themselves?  Who might pack it up and call it quits entirely?

The Challenger Series format and schedule have changed several times since the midseason cut was implemented. I’ve never been entirely clear on it, so I went to the WSL site to get the official word on the matter for 2023: 

The 2023 Challenger Series gets underway following the conclusion of Stop No. 5 on the CT (the Western Australia Margaret River Pro), with two events in Australia: the Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro and the GWM Sydney Surf Pro. Surfers will then reconvene in July in Ballito, South Africa, followed by the US Open of Surfing Presented by Pacifico, which returns to its regularly scheduled spot in late July. The Series rounds out in October with events in Portugal and Brazil, after which the top 10 ranked men and top five ranked women will qualify to join the world’s best surfers on the 2024 Championship Tour. Competitors will count their four best results out of the six events.

I’m still confused.

Two events in Australia in May. 

One in South Africa in July. 

The U.S. Open in Huntington Beach in late July. 

Early October in Portugal. 

Finally, end in Brazil late October. 

Where’s Hawaii!?!?!

Backhand Attack from a Challenger

The WSL already turned the Triple Crown into an online series and moved the tour’s grand finale from the North Shore to San Clemente.

So why not just remove Haleiwa altogether?

No Hawaii on the Challenger Series this year.

No Triple Crown in the flesh.

No big finish on the North Shore.

I am confused.

Initially, I was a fan of the mid-season cut. I still am a fan of the idea of a cut or multiple cuts, but I’m not a fan of the current execution within the framework of the tour. 

It has worked, in some capacity, to create drama and higher stakes in the first half of the year, but to just deflate the balloon and end in a weirdly-formatted contest at Trestles feels so dissatisfying.

Trestles is an amazing wave. Incredibly fun, but it’s not exactly a wave of consequence. Not like the North Shore. And definitely not the wave I, personally, want to see deciding the next World Champ.

When the Mid-Season Cut hits Don't be here!
When the mid-season cut hits, don’t be here!

After spending much time trying to flush out The Strike Tour addendum, I no longer think a single cut at the midway point is the way to go.  It just doesn’t feel right to cut half the tour midway then end it with the top 5 surfers at Trestles.

I think it creates too much frustration amongst the competitors, and without a grand enough finish worthy of the hard work they’ve put in all year long it almost feels contemptible.

The Strike Tour doesn’t fire anyone midway through the season as if it’s conducting sweeping corporate layoffs.

What The Strike Tour does is make every single contest of the utmost importance, and it rewards those succeeding on the tour with qualification to the Majors.

If you want to win a title, you’re probably going to need to qualify for most, if not all, of the Majors.

Instead of one arbitrary cut at the midway point, The Strike Tour institutes a system where only the top 16 competitors (this number is up for discussion) at the time that each Major is called on earn the invitation to compete.

The Majors are more meaningful because they are only called on when the right swell hits. The waves are guaranteed, because patience and flexibility are employed the way they need to be when dealing Mother Nature.    

The Mid-Season Cut is not Loved by All
Someone seems to be listening to what I’m saying!

The four Majors are plotted at the beginning of each year, but with longer waiting periods and flexibility of schedule to allow for the right swell at each location.

With the field eligible to compete at each Major whittled down to 16 (again, still up for debate), the contest can run in one glorious day.

The biggest day of the swell, one would hope.

Meanwhile, some beefed up version of the current tour rages on, creating the rankings that will decide who gets to surf the best waves in the world in a one-day high stakes Major shootout.

It’s a funnel of drama, dripping us right down into the very last heat of the last Major of the year: Pipeline.

I know it’s flawed at the moment, but I’m working with some of the brightest minds in surfing to polish the blueprint for The Strike Tour addendum.

It’s complicated and will take some time to work out the finer points, but it’s possible and I truly believe a system like this, in some capacity, is what the tour needs.

Until then, the CUT will have to do.


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