Got to hand it to the World Surf League, it didn’t give up on Northern California.
The WSL found out how things really work in trying to pull off a contest at Mavericks, and have now abandoned the big-wave spot off the Half Moon Bay coast. But the pro surfing tour has found a more-than-suitable replacement in the Greater Bay Area, choosing Steamer Lane for a new Championship Tour stop at the Santa Cruz Pro, the third leg of the 2020-21 WSL tour which was announced Tuesday.
Flipping the schedule, the WSL will open the season — instead of close — in Hawaii with the 50th anniversary of the Billabong Pipe Masters and Sunset Open kicking off the season on Oahu’s North Shore in December.
It will be the first contest since the WSL shuttered its 2019-20 season with the rise of the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020-21 season will open under similar concerns.
From Feb. 2-12, some of the top surfers in the world will descend on the amphitheater-like, cliff setting — replete with a light house — of Santa Cruz’s Steamer Lane on the city’s West Side. The pros will have to take a hard look in the mirror and decide: do they want to battle with full wetsuits and the frigid conditions of Santa Cruz in February?
No one said surfing Northern California was easy, but when “The Lane” is firing, it provides waves as good as any a surfer will find.
A Santa Cruz contest was a longtime fixture on several tours since its inception in 1985. Originally known as the O’Neill Cold Water Classic, sponsored by wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill, it spent several seasons as a stop on the championship tour, with the legendary Tom Curren taking home the title in 1990.
For 20 years, however, the contest bounced around on the second-tier circuit. It returned to first-tier status in 2012, where it stayed until it was canceled in 2016.
Over the last several years, however, the Santa Cruz surf community has put on its own independent “Freak Show Pro” surf contest.
I’m sure there will be a contingent of surfers and those connected with the surf community who will see this event as an intrusion of the corporate surf culture and an unnecessary time of traffic and crowds — two things that are generally frowned upon in a society in the throes of a pandemic.
But strictly from a surfing perspective, I think it’s important the WSL includes Northern California on its tour. A town that went to court to battle for the right to use the term “Surf City, USA,” needs to have a professional contest.
Huntington Beach, which won a court battle to use the nickname, has the Vans US Open of Surfing. Now, Santa Cruz is back on the world-tour map with the Santa Cruz Pro.
From Santa Cruz, the Championship Tour will head to the Southern Hemisphere for events in Australia, Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa.
But So Cal will be the center of the surf world September 2021 as San Clemente’s famed Lower Trestles will host the WSL Finals, where the men’s and women’s overall champions will be crowned.
John Horgan, Daily Journal columnist and one of the unofficial historians of San Mateo County sports, gave me this little tidbit following Tampa Bay’s 38-3 loss to New Orleans on Sunday Night Football.
Horgan said that drubbing was the worst Tom Brady has absorbed as a starting quarterback since 1993 — his junior year at Serra. Horgan said in back-to-back games during the 1993 season, the Padres, with Brady starting under center, were beaten 63-6 by St. Francis and 44-0 by Mitty.
I’m sure this Brady kid will be just fine.
Wednesday marked the first day that high school athletes could officially sign their “national letter of intent” to continue their playing careers in college.
Burlingame’s Kailey O’Connor will sign her NLI to play softball at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, while Menlo-Atherton’s Mia Parkhurst will sign her NLI to play soccer at University of Georgia.
Menlo School athletes Connor MacMitchell and Ashley Scafetta also signed NLIs Wednesday. MacMitchell will continue his water polo career at UC San Diego, while Scafetta will swim at Boston University.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117.