World Surf League sees strong numbers for inaugural Finals

By Tyler Everett
Logan (middle) called the Finals "a transformative moment for our sport"World Surf League

The World Surf League’s first Finals event, which took place Tuesday, drew a record 6.8 million video views across various live streams, including YouTube and the WSL's channels. The brainchild of CEO Erik Logan proved to be a hit with fans. A combination of perfect conditions, several competitive heats and a warm reception on social media led Logan to call the event “a transformative moment for our sport and the league.” This year was the first time that the league decided a Championship Tour with a one-day event, as five men’s and women’s surfers competed in the inaugural Rip Curl WSL Finals from around 8:00am until 3:30pm PST at Lower Trestles in San Clemente, Calif. In previous seasons, the champions were decided based who earned the most points throughout the season. That meant that in some years, little was at stake on the final day of the Championship Tour. “We felt really confident that the format was right,” Logan said. “And we were excited to see that there were some things along the way, with a couple of upsets, that provided that instant drama that we were hoping to introduce. It certainly delivered.”

SURFERS ARE ON BOARD: Carissa Moore of Hawaii was crowned this year’s women’s champion, giving her five career titles, and Brazilian Gabriel Medina won his third title. Moore, who also won the ’19 title and took home Gold in Tokyo, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “It was the first time I’d won the world title competing in real time, in the water, and it felt really special.” She added, “I think the fans, everybody I talked to, really enjoyed the show. It made for a really exciting finish.” Logan said Medina, who prior to the Finals questioned the fairness of the new format, had his support. “Gabe had a point of view going into the format,” Logan said. “And Gabe’s point of view after the format, I think, is a little different. To see the jubilation on Gabe’s face that night at the party afterward was exciting. He and I had a lot of great laughs and we spent some time Tuesday night discussing the whole year and the journey.” Logan added, “This was the first year that we have done the format. I think there’s a lot of things that we’re going to take some time to really diagnose and understand, and we’ll see what tweaks, like with any sport, need to happen.”

STRIKE WHILE HOT: Tuesday’s Finals were highly anticipated following Surfing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo earlier this summer, with the WSL’s Finals content generating 11.3 million video views prior to the event. The WSL is still compiling viewership figures for the Finals, but confirmed that the live stream of the Finals on YouTube was the organization’s largest single day in terms of consumption, with double the viewership recorded for the ’19 Pipeline finals. The league is also yet to announce attendance numbers. Though the WSL was unable to announce the specific timing of the event until hours before the Finals got underway Tuesday morning, that did not hurt viewership. “Most of our audience is predisposed to the on-demand nature of our sport, and they understand that we have a window when we decide to go,” Logan explained.

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