Queensland has lost a World Surf League tour event to New South Wales due to an unresolved dispute over quarantine restrictions.
The iconic Snapper Rocks event will instead, now take place on Sydney’s northern beaches.
New South Wales (NSW) won hosting rights to the world championship’s opening event after the Queensland government refused to guarantee tour athletes and staff pre-approved quarantine, according to World Surf League (WSL) Asia-Pacific General Manager Andrew Stark.
“[It’s] fundamentally because NSW was the only state willing to accept our charter plane landing with all our international athletes. We tried in other states but weren’t able to achieve that,” Stark said.
“Unfortunately, those state governments weren’t able to provide us with a pre-approved quarantine hub system to get into their state.”
More than 50 of the world’s best surfers, including Kelly Slater and John John Florence, will compete at Narrabeen Beach in April.
This is the second WSL event that NSW has secured from interstate, with Victoria’s Easter Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach moved to Newcastle, north of Sydney.
It will be the first time since 1961 that the Bells Beach event will not at the iconic right-hand, point break near Torquay, Victoria. The event will be held at Merewether Beach instead.
Stark lauded NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro as a key player behind securing the two events, saying NSW was the only state to allow a chartered flight of over 100 professional surfers and staff from Los Angeles to enter hotel quarantine in early March.
“With a long-running sporting rivalry between NSW and Queensland, once again, NSW has come out on top,” Barilaro said.
“In 2021 NSW will be known as the surfing state and sporting capital of Australia.”
Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe told The Courier Mail on Feb. 15 that the WSL had “taken short-term dollars at the expense of surfing tradition,” suggesting the decision was influenced by a payment guarantee for hotel quarantine.
However, Stark said that the WSL was paying for their hotel quarantine in NSW.
“This is not a financial decision; this is a decision around how we run events,” he said. “It’s too risky to just gamble whether the border is open or not … we had to de-risk our sport.”
Stark added that the WSL decided to stay in NSW, after Queensland refused to guarantee border entry for its athletes without quarantine after the Newcastle event’s conclusion.
Senior NSW Minister and Member for Pittwater Rob Stokes said the event would bring much-needed tourism dollars to the northern beaches, which suffered during the COVID-19 lockdown over Christmas and New Year.
The NSW state government estimates surfing events would generate AU$15 million for NSW under pre-COVID circumstances, adding that this “investment decision” between the state and WSL was commercial.
Stark said Narrabeen was chosen as the second event location due to its “rich history of professional surfing.”
“I’m thrilled to see this spectacular surfing event come to our shores, and I know the community will love this opportunity to showcase the local area on a global stage.”