New-look WSL to spark veterans on tour

Sally Fitzgibbon has welcomed a new cut throat format for the next edition of the World Surf League.
Sally Fitzgibbon has welcomed a new cut throat format for the next edition of the World Surf League.

The introduction of a mid-season cut for next year's World Surf League is set to bring out the best in tour veterans in the opinion of Australian Sally Fitzgibbons.

The WSL announced on Friday the 2020 season has been abandoned due to the global coronavirus pandemic and the 2021 championship will be a much-changed tour.

As well as having an equal number of 10 events for the men and women, the women's tour will be surfing at the imposing left-hander of Teahupo'o in Tahiti for the first time since 2006.

There will also be no room for error in the opening half of the season with the men's and women's fields to be cut from 36 and 18 to 24 and 12 respectively after five events.

Fitzgibbons, who has been on tour since 2009, says the sport's rising crop of youngsters should be wary of how experience will be a key component to surviving the cut.

"These new rules and how to get your spot, how to attain a world title, is going to keep you honest. It's going to push performances and that's exciting," the 29-year-old told AAP.

"All the old guard are definitely going to rise and say, you know, I'm not ready to let go of my spot."

The return of the women's tour to Teahupo'o is another exciting addition for Fitzgibbons.

West Australian Melanie Redman-Carr was victorious the last time the women's tour visited the notorious left-hand reef break.

Fitzgibbons has never surfed at Teahupo'o in competition but has no fear of the powerful wave after winning at Fiji's Cloudbreak in 2015 despite a perforated eardrum.

"You've just got to trust yourself and have a go and know that you can pick up the pieces on the other side or enjoy the very sweet moment where you get shot out of the barrel at the other end," she said.

"I feel our generation, we haven't had that ultimate test where it's coincided with the platform with the event at Tahiti."

Fitzgibbons, an NRL fan, is also a big fan of the addition of the WSL Finals where the top five surfers from the men's and women's tour will surf off for their respective championships on a single day at a venue to be determined.

"To actually have in our own sport, a grand final-like pinnacle moment, I definitely like it," she said.

"As all current athletes would say if 'I'm in it, I'm loving it. If I'm not, I'm definitely feeling it'.

"I think it's going to be great and it's definitely made it tense whether it's to make the finals or even to make the cut."

Australian Associated Press