Virus throws world surf tour off course

Hawaii's Sunset Open has been cancelled while California's Santa Cruz Pro was put on hold as the World Surf League navigates its way through the pandemic.

TYLER WRIGHT.
TYLER WRIGHT. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Victoria's Bells Beach is in line to host the return of surfing's Championship Tour in April after the global pandemic forced significant changes to the WSL schedule.

The Sunset Open, which was due to run from January 19-28, and the Big Wave Jaws Championship Pe'ah have been called off as a result of Hawaii's suspension of all surfing competitions.

WSL also postponed the Santa Cruz Pro, which was scheduled for February 2-12 and was the last planned stop on the US leg of the Championship Tour.

"(The decision) is based primarily on the surge of COVID-19 cases in California," WSL said in a statement.

"The postponement is also heavily influenced by the length of time our athletes have been away from home, and by the complexities of global travel during this pandemic, which would have caused significant logistical challenges for athletes and staff to travel home and return to California for the event."

The Championship Tour commenced with the women's Maui Pro and men's Pipeline Masters in Hawaii in December, with Australian Tyler Wright and hometown hero John John Florence victorious in the season-opening events.

The Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach was originally slated to be the fourth stop of the season, with both men's and women's events to run from April 1-11.

WSL is hopeful the event will proceed as planned.

"We look forward to safely continuing the 2021 CT season with the Australia leg starting at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in April," the WSL statement read.