The Times They Are A-Changin' For Women's Professional Surfing
It will be the first time a women's WCT event has been held in Fiji since 2006
Next week, we'll see an exciting shift in women's surfing for the first time in seven years. There hasn't been a women's World Championship Tour event held in Fiji since 2006.
For nearly a decade, the world's best female surfers have been handed beachbreaks with little room to truly test their capabilities.
"It's the first time women have been allowed to compete here since 2006" Now, the ASP has changed the game plan - and women are on the way up.
Bigger prize money has been introduced (it used to be less than a quarter of the men's), along with new events held at some of the most testing waves in the world - Cloudbreak in Fiji, Lower Trestles in California and Honolua Bay in Maui, Hawaii.
So, what changed in 2006?
The recession in 2008 hit the surf industry hard. Severe cuts were made across the board and unfortunately, female surfers suffered the most.
The women's WCT contests were reduced to six per year, compared to 11 for male competitors. When conditions were less-than-ideal, women were forced to compete because protesting could cause them to lose sponsorship. The men, meanwhile, just waited for better waves.
By 2012, the women's professional tour was on the brink of collapse. Luckily, a saving grace stopped women's surfing from heading to a watery grave.
A private company called ZoSea Media Media Holdings bought the ASP, reshuffled the WCT and put a lot more money behind women's surfing. The result? A totally rejuvenated pro female surf scene.
Now the WCT events are no longer controlled by brands, giving women freedom from sponsors to speak up and stand strong in their sport.
How will the inclusion of Cloudbreak push women's surfing?
Cloudbreak is the first newly-added event of the year. It's a heavy left-hander with a super sharp reef lying beneath the surface, ready to destroy any boards or surfers that come into contact with it.
Aerial manoeuvres will hold no gravitas here. It's less technical and all about getting barrelled. It will force the surfers to pull off truly amazing performances to score the top spot.
"The women's tour is becoming super-healthy. It's juicy and meaty, and it's interesting..." None of the current female WCT competitors were on the circuit in 2006 when the last comp took place here, so it could cause a real shake up on the leaderboard.
Chargers like Bianca Buitendag and Tyler Wright will have the chance to show their courage, while offering a new challenge to current top-runners, Carissa Moore, Steph Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons.
Four-time World Tour Champion Lisa Andersen told ESPN that the changes have made a more intense competition. "The women's tour is becoming super-healthy. It's got fat on the edges, it's juicy and meaty, and it's interesting."
The Fiji Pro 2014 kicks off on Monday 25 May at Cloudbreak, Fiji. For more information on timings, click here.
SCHEDULE FOR NEXT WEEK'S ROXY FIJI PRO 2014
Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA), Coco Ho (HAW), Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Laura Enever (AUS), Johanne Defay (FRA)
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW), Alessa Quizon (HAW), Ella Williams (NZL)
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Pauline Ado (FRA), Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW)
Heat 5: Tyler Wright (AUS), Dimity Stoyle (AUS), Alana Blanchard (HAW)
Heat 6: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF), Malia Manuel (HAW), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)