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Tide turns against WA surf event

Surfing legend Kelly Slater competes at the Margaret River Pro.
Surfing legend Kelly Slater competes at the Margaret River Pro.Picture: The West Australian

WA’s premier surfing event — the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro — could lose its top-flight status next year without an eleventh-hour breakthrough in negotiations with the sport’s global administrators.

With the event starting in 13 days, The Weekend West has learnt Surfing WA and key backer Tourism WA are trying to keep it on the World Championship Tour once the contract expires this year.

The five-year, multimillion-dollar contract was signed in 2012 and has seen the Margaret River contest elevated to surfing championship tour status for the women’s draw since 2013 and the men’s since 2014.

But amid rumours the World Surf League could trim the Australian leg of the tour from three events to two, it has been claimed Margaret River could be a casualty.

The other championship tour Australian contests at the Gold Coast and Bells Beach have long been part of the schedule.

Surfing WA boss Mark Lane acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the event’s status.

Mr Lane was in Queensland this week for talks with Dirk Ziff, the billionaire part-owner of the WSL. The discussions come after more than 12 months of negotiations between Surfing WA and the WSL to thrash out a new deal for the Margaret River event.

“While we’ve had discussions, nothing has been agreed upon by either side,” Mr Lane said.

“We’ve designed the event so it has multiple venues based on wind and swell conditions and financially we’ve had great support from Tourism WA and other sponsors. So in terms of financially stability, it’s very strong.”

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