Understanding Surfing Contests and Professional Surfing Circuits

Understanding Surfing Contests and Professional Surfing Circuits

Surfing is not just a recreational activity; it has evolved into a professional sport with a thriving competitive scene. Surfing contests and professional circuits attract the world's best surfers, showcasing their skills and pushing the boundaries of what is possible on a wave. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of surfing contests, the different formats, the major professional surfing circuits, and the impact they have on the sport.

The Basics of Surfing Contests

What Are Surfing Contests?

Surfing contests are organised events where surfers compete against each other to showcase their abilities and score points based on their performance. These contests can take place at various surf breaks worldwide and are often categorised into amateur and professional levels. While amateur contests are essential for nurturing talent and allowing surfers to gain experience, professional contests are where the best of the best come together to battle it out for glory and lucrative prizes.

Judging Criteria

Surfing contests are judged based on a set of criteria that evaluate a surfer's performance on a wave. Judges look for factors such as wave selection, difficulty of manoeuvres, execution, speed, power, and flow. Each surfer's top two or three highest-scoring waves are considered, and the total score determines their position in the contest. The judging criteria ensure fairness and consistency across all contests.


a surfer riding a wave


Formats of Surfing Contests

Heat-Based Format

The most common format used in surfing contests is the heat-based format. Surfers are divided into heats, with typically four competitors in each heat. They paddle out during their designated time and catch as many waves as possible within a specified time limit, usually around 20 to 30 minutes. The two surfers with the highest total scores advance to the next round, while the others are eliminated from the contest.

Man-on-Man Format

In this format, two surfers compete directly against each other in a head-to-head matchup. The winner of each heat advances to the next round, creating an exciting and intense competition. The man-on-man format is commonly used in the later stages of professional contests when the number of competitors has reduced.

The World Surf League (WSL) - The Premier Professional Surfing Circuit

Overview of the WSL

The World Surf League (WSL) is the pinnacle of professional surfing circuits, attracting the world's best surfers to compete in various events held across the globe. The WSL organises both men's and women's championships, giving equal opportunities and recognition to male and female athletes. It is responsible for elevating surfing's status as a legitimate sport and promoting its growth worldwide.

Championship Tour (CT)

The Championship Tour is the most prestigious part of the WSL. It consists of a series of elite events held at the world's best surf breaks. Surfers accumulate points based on their performance in each event, and at the end of the season, the surfer with the most points is crowned the world champion. The CT is highly competitive, with surfers vying for the title and aiming to leave their mark in the history of the sport.

Qualifying Series (QS) - The Path to the CT

The Purpose of the QS

The Qualifying Series (QS) serves as a stepping stone for aspiring surfers to make it to the Championship Tour. Surfers compete in various QS events worldwide, earning points based on their performance. The top-ranked surfers on the QS leaderboard at the end of the season earn a spot on the following year's Championship Tour, giving them a chance to compete against the world's best surfers.

Challenges and Opportunities

The QS is a grind for many surfers, as they travel to different countries, face challenging conditions, and compete against fierce opponents. However, it also provides an excellent opportunity for surfers to improve their skills, gain exposure, and prove themselves on the global stage. Many of today's surfing superstars started their careers on the QS before making it to the CT.

The Big Wave World Tour


Portugal's Nazaré, a giant surf wave


Conquering the Giants

The Big Wave World Tour is a specialised circuit that focuses on the most massive and powerful waves on the planet. This adrenaline-pumping tour attracts fearless surfers who ride waves that can reach heights of 30 feet or more. Locations like Hawaii's infamous Jaws and Portugal's Nazaré have become synonymous with big wave surfing. Surfers on this tour are judged not only on their performance but also on their courage and commitment to conquering these giants of the ocean.

Catch your wave and start your career in surfing

Surfing contests and professional surfing circuits have transformed surfing from a recreational pastime into a globally recognised and respected sport. The passion, skill, and dedication of the surfers who compete inspire millions of fans around the world. Whether you're an aspiring surfer dreaming of joining the ranks of the pros or a passionate fan cheering on your favourite athletes, the world of surfing contests offers something for everyone.

For the best surf gear, boards, and expert advice in Newcastle, head over to Slimes Newcastle. We have been supporting surfers of all levels for years and are committed to promoting the sport of surfing. Visit our website or drop by our store to gear up and ride the waves like a pro! Happy surfing!

Back to blog