WA hard border puts surf slam in doubt

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Acclaimed Margaret River product Jack Robinson was slated for the Margaret River leg of the Australian Grand Slam of Surfing.
Camera IconAcclaimed Margaret River product Jack Robinson was slated for the Margaret River leg of the Australian Grand Slam of Surfing. Credit: WSL

WA’s hard border has cast significant doubts on the multimillion-dollar World Surf League event planned for this month — or maybe November.

The Australian Grand Slam of Surfing contest was announced mid-year to fill the gap left by the cancellation of the Margaret River Pro and other events on the WSL calendar.

But the first of the two-leg event concluded last week on the east coast and WSL was unable to confirm a start date for the Margaret River event — or that it would definitely go ahead.

The Times understands backroom negotiations are still ongoing for the sake of entry permits and quarantine arrangements for competing surfers.

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“For now, the WSL is still planning for the Margaret River Pro to go ahead, subject to the border restrictions enforced by the WA Government,” a WSL spokesman said.

“We have the potential to continue the waiting period into November, so will continue with our plans while monitoring the ever-changing restrictions.”

WSL previously said the $20,000 prizes for male and female surfers would go to charity, with the contest televised on Channel 7, Kayo, Fox Sports and the WSL Facebook page.

Each location would also have “Heritage” and “Locals best of the best”heats, will be contested by some of surfing’s most popular names, with Taj Burrow taking a wildcard in the men’s draw, Jake Paterson and Dave Macaulay in the heritage heat, and the “best of the best” heat featuring Margaret River surfers to be confirmed in a trial series run by Surfing WA.

The grand slam was touted as an economic windfall for the region putting the eyes of the world on Margaret River when announced in July by Tourism WA chief executive Brodie Carr — who has since resigned.

Surfing WA boss Mark Lane said it was a “tough” situation and difficult to clarify.

“From a perspective of what we can control, Surfing WA have prepared all of the required approvals, planning and permitting, and have processes in place to react swiftly pending border restrictions being lifted,” Mr Lane said.

“Regarding the border issue: those decisions and future directions, comments etc, are most certainly best to come from the State Government.”

But a Tourism WA spokeswoman did not offer much hope.

“Tourism WA has a contract in place with the WSL to hold a Championship Tour event in WA in 2021, so if the grand slam doesn’t go ahead this year, we’ll have next year’s event to plan and look forward to,” she said.

“Organisers were always aware that for Margaret River to host an Australian Grand Slam of Surfing event, all COVID health requirements would need to be met, and if that wasn’t possible, Tourism WA and the WSL would discuss other options.”

Tourism WA said the event window remained open for November as well.

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