Nick Carroll: A Shot in the Arm for the QS

10 Sep 2019 4 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Jordy Lawler on his way to winning the 2018 QS event at Woolamai on Phillip Island, soon to be a QS 10,000 venue. Photo: Liam Robertson / WSL

Jordy Lawler on his way to winning the 2018 QS event at Woolamai on Phillip Island, soon to be a QS 10,000 venue. Photo: Liam Robertson / WSL

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

Everyone’s a winner with the Challenger Series!!

For a while, pretty much since Pat O’Connell came on board in fact, Team WSL been beavering away in the back rooms, tweaking and jiggering at stuff, trying to make more and more sense of the beast they took charge of six years ago.

Now via various carefully timed press releases, the results of that jiggering are becoming more and more apparent

A week or so it was the semi blowing up of the Big Wave Tour, which has been shrunk to one event, the totally terrifying Peahi Challenge, plus a bunch of not-quite-clear Strike Missions involving film crews, maybe fame and glory, but not really money.

This week it’s kind of the opposite: a big ol’ shot in the arm for the QS.

It comes in the form of the Challenger Series, a beefed up and re-branded version of the QS’s top tier 10,000 events, to be launched in 2020.

The Challenger Series will feature eight events, two up from the current six 10,000s. Vitally for young Aussie pretenders at least, the two newcomer events are in Phillip Island, Vicco, and Piha, NZ — within easy reach of a QS population starved of local top tier events for years. It’s a big goal kicked for the WSL’s Australia-region CEO, Andrew Stark, who’s been driving for a step up in the area.

Now, innocent “core” onlookers might look at these contrasting announcements and think, why? Big wave contests are crazy! Super visual, edge of the seat stuff, and done in one eight hour rush. Whereas QS events are, hmmm, QS events — they go on and on and they’re not quite CT.

Surely one out-ranks the other? Entertainment-wise?

Well, maybe. But even if you’re serving up the WSL’s mega-funded feast, you’ve gotta choose which mouths you feed.

The Big Wave Tour is a mad spectacle when it’s on. When it’s not, it’s a massive pain in the arse.

It’s been through two commissioners during the WSL’s tenure: big Pete Mel, who lasted till 2017, and Mike Parsons, who still nominally remains the C-guy. It’s tried and tried to cement major events in place a la the CT, only to be undone at almost every turn, and even embarrassed at times, as it was last year when comments from WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt were leaked from a meeting of “stakeholders”(sorry, hate that word) at Mavericks.

Not only that, all the numbers show it’s been drifting backward. In 2011, when the BWT was a two-year-old, it ran four events and had 53 competitors. In 2018, the fractious pre-teen had just two events and 29 surfers. 

You might put up with all that shit just for a moment like Twiggy Baker’s impossible drop to pull-in at Jaws. But the WSL would have figured, we can get that moment! Just do one event. Everyone will show up.

I guess they will see about that. More to come, for sure. But meanwhile, the QS.

Maybe it won’t ever have a Twiggy moment. But tell ya what, it’s got the numbers.

By contrast with that 29, the QS has over 1500 surfers signed up via varying layers of competition, across genders. Every one of them is paying entry fees direct to the WSL through its entry portal system. They surf across more than 100 events worldwide, and every one of THOSE events is paying a franchise fee of some kind too.

And the biggest fees are paid via the QS 10,000 events — soon to be the Challenger Series, and increased by two, which when you were just six, is a fair bit.

The Challenger Series cements in a pathway to the big leagues — and guaranteed, more and more kiddies will be stepping on to that pathway, paying their entry fees into the foreseeable future.

As a result, the re-jiggered QS system stands to generate even more money for the WSL in 2020 than the nearly $3 million (our estimate) it did in 2019, through the combination of event fees and entries.

No wonder the WSL is investing in the one and not the other. That’s where the membership is — and the money.

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