Surfing’s popularity has exploded in recent years, with more people hitting the waves across the globe. This growth has also led to an increase in the number of professional and amateur surfing competitions held annually worldwide. But just how many surf contests exist? Let’s take a look at the major events that make up the competitive surfing calendar.
World Surf League Championship Tour
The pinnacle of professional surfing is the World Surf League Championship Tour (CT). This is the top tier of surfers competing on the global stage. The CT consists of:
- 10-12 events per year
- 36 elite surfers qualify via QS rankings
- Men’s and women’s tours with equal prize money
- Stops on 3 continents – Australia, North America, South America
- Major locations like Bells Beach, Margaret River, Jeffreys Bay
Winning a CT event or the year-end WSL Title is the ultimate achievement in surfing. This premier series represents the top echelon of surf competitions.
World Surf League Qualifying Series
The WSL Qualifying Series (QS) is the stepping stone to reach the elite Championship Tour. QS events include:
- Over 600 contests annually
- 5 tiers of competition – Challenger, 1,000, 3,000, 5,000, 10,000
- Points earned qualify surfers for the CT
- Events held on 6 continents worldwide
- Hundreds of pros and amateurs compete
The QS provides a clear developmental path and competitive opportunities for surfers aspiring to CT qualification.
Beyond the QS and CT, there are numerous specialty pro events held globally:
- Big Wave Tour – for pros in giant surf at locations like Mavericks and Nazare
- Longboard Tour – logs over 9 feet ridden in classic style
- Junior Tour – development series for top under 18 surfers
- Masters Tour – legends over 35 years old still competing
- Air Tour – highlighting progressive aerial surfing
These tours offer diversity in competitive surfing for specific niches beyond shortboarding.
At the grassroots are the countless local surf competitions held at beaches around the world. These include:
- Interscholastic leagues for high school and college teams
- Small-scale contests organized by local surf shops and clubs
- Regional championship series within countries
- Grom events for young surfers under 16
- Longboard, women’s, and tandem contests
- Surf festivals spanning multiple divisions over several days
Local competitions give amateurs of all ages and abilities a chance to test skills and have fun competing in surfing.
Global Surfing Events
A few prestigious international one-off surfing events also take place annually:
- Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational – Hawaii’s premier big wave event
- Volcom Pipe Pro – Winter pipe surfing contest at Banzai Pipeline
- U.S. Open of Surfing – Large summer competition in Huntington Beach
- Surfest Newcastle – Two week festival with many divisions held in Australia
- Eurosurf – Europe’s top pro/am contest held in France
These renowned contests attract the world’s best surfers plus huge spectator crowds.
World Surfing Championships
Every two years the International Surfing Association (ISA) holds the World Surfing Games to crown world champions.
- Olympic qualifier event since 2019
- Team and individual competition
- 80+ countries represented
- Men and women across all ages
- Considered second only to the Olympics for national surf teams
The World Surfing Games brings together global talent and national pride.
Total Surfing Contests Worldwide
Tallying up all the events above, there are approximately:
- 10 Championship Tour stops
- 600+ QS contests
- 50+ specialty pro events
- Thousands of local competitions
- Dozens of renowned global contests
- 1 major world championship
That makes for thousands of surfing competitions held around the globe each year! The wide range caters to pros, amateurs, veterans, groms and weekend warriors alike. With so many contests to enter, there are ample opportunities to put your skills to the test!
Frequently Asked Questions About Surfing Competitions
Surfing’s rise from counterculture to competitive sport has expanded events worldwide. Here are answers to common questions about professional and amateur surf contests.
How many people compete on the WSL Championship Tour?
The CT has 36 surfers who qualify based on QS rankings – 18 men and 18 women. There are also injury wildcards and event wildcards added. In total each CT stop will have 40-50 surfers.
What are the most famous surf spots that host events?
Bells Beach, Snapper Rocks, Pipeline, Teahupo’o, Jeffreys Bay, and Lower Trestles among others host iconic pro events annually. Major waves see the world’s best surfers.
How much money do pro surfers make from contests?
CT surfers can earn $10,000 – $100,000 per event based on results. QS contests range from $1,000 to $20,000 for wins. Top pros can make $1 million or more per year from contest winnings and sponsor deals.
How old do you have to be to enter surf contests?
Most local contests have divisions starting at age 10 or 12. QS events require participants to be at least 14 years old. There are plenty of juniors events for groms under 18 years old.
Can anyone compete as a pro surfer?
To be considered a pro you must apply for a WSL license and enter QS events. WSL status as a CT or QS surfer requires consistently high contest results to maintain rankings.
What types of surfboards are allowed in competition?
Most QS and CT events only permit shortboards under 10 feet. Specialty events like longboarding allow different equipment. Shortboard dimensions are restricted for juniors contests too.
How are judges scoring rides in contests?
Judges score rides from 1-10 based on degree of difficulty, innovative maneuvers, speed, power, and flow. Surfers need at least two high scoring waves for heat totals.
How long do pro surf events last?
Contests typically run for 4-10 days depending on number of divisions and entrants. There are multiple heats daily with finals usually held on the last day. CT events last 1-2 weeks.
Surfing’s competitive scene keeps expanding. Events at all levels let pros and amateurs test themselves in the waves and have fun competing together.