Surf brand Rip Curl has signed a three-year sponsorship deal for a World Surf League finals event – this year happening at Lower Trestles, the first major pro surf contest since 2017 to be held at the iconic surf break just south of San Clemente.

The new format will bring the top five men and top five women, based on points earned throughout the competitive year, for a winner-takes-all battle in September at the tucked away San Onofre State Beach, known as a high-performance wave and the best on the mainland.

Historically, the final event of the year happens at Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii and a champion earns the title based on points accumulated throughout the competitive year – meaning surfers have learned of their championship wins in locker rooms or while on the sand, which can make for an anticlimactic crowning of a world champion.

“Rip Curl has been supporting pro surfers in the race for world surfing titles for decades and we have won either a women’s or men’s crown with our pro team 11 of the last 13 years, so when the new format came out we wanted to get behind WSL in its first three years of the new system,” said Neil Ridgway, chief brand and marketing officer at Rip Curl. “Hopefully, it shows to anyone with a pro surfing dream that from the juniors to the upper-echelon it’s a great part of surfing and that it provides all of the drama the last event of the tour race is known for.”

The event will be held on the best day of the waiting period between Sept. 8 and 17.

The announcement of Rip Curl’s three-year partnership follows the company’s relocation last year of its North America headquarters to San Clemente, where the brand’s founders first brought the surf apparel brand from Australia to the U.S. 40 years ago.

In Rip Curl’s logo, Trestles is named along with Torquay, the beach town in Australia where the company was founded in 1969, and  Hossegor, the European headquarters.

“We are thrilled to announce the Rip Curl WSL Finals,” Cherie Cohen, WSL chief revenue officer, said in a statement. “Throughout a long tenure as core promoter of professional surfing, Rip Curl has consistently delivered innovation and kept its edge. It makes sense that we would partner to make history and launch the new format to crown a men’s and women’s world champion. We look forward to building a successful franchise together over the next three years.”

A pro surfing event with the world’s best hasn’t been held at Lower Trestles for four years since the Hurley Pro was canceled.

That was a blow to local surf tourism and for fans who enjoyed trekking down to the remote beach to get front-row seats to watch the world’s best up close.

The finals at Lower Trestles could be a huge advantage for local surfers who grew up at the surf spot, such as San Clemente stand-outs Kolohe Andino and Griffin Colapinto, or many of the world’s top surfers who have transplanted to San Clemente like Brazilian Filipe Toledo or Florida’s Caroline Marks, who train regularly at the high-performance wave.

Kolohe Andino, of San Clemente, surfing Lower Trestles, where the WSL Finals will be held in 2021, a new format for competitive surfing. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Ridgway hinted that though Rip Curl has signed on as sponsor for three years, it doesn’t mean the event will be held at Trestles for all three years.

“Who knows, it could be in the Mentawai ( and island chain in Indonesia) next year and if nothing else, the sponsorship means we get to go,” Ridgway said.

All  stops and dates for this year’s competition tour are “subject to change due to applicable COVID-19 related restrictions, including global travel restrictions.”

Already, the tour has had some wipeouts, with an event in Santa Cruz canceled as the state’s numbers surged earlier this year. Although restrictions have eased in recent weeks, there’s no word of that event being rescheduled.

The competitive season started off with John John Florence and Tyler Wright winning the Billabong Pipe Masters titles at Hawaii’s Pipeline.

The next planned stop on the World Tour is the Rip Curl Newcastle, April 1 through 11, which kicks off the Australian leg.

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