The West

WA chases world s top surfers
Kelly Slater in action at this year's Margaret River Pro.

The State Government has launched an official bid to make next year's Margaret River Pro an elite event that would guarantee the world's best 34 surfers attend.

The Pro could be rated an Association of Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour event as early as next year.

Tourism Minister Kim Hames said the joint bid with Surfing WA aimed to secure the status boost in time for the April competition.

Surfing WA chief executive Mark Lane said hosting a WCT event in Margaret River was the ultimate goal, but the ASP events licensing structure was the biggest hurdle because the rules limited each continent to two WCT licences.

Those are held by the Gold Coast's Quiksilver Pro and Victoria's Bells Beach Rip Curl Pro.

Mr Lane said Quiksilver and Rip Curl "tightly held" their east coast event licences, but he indicated Surfing WA was ready to pounce should either of the events fall through.

It is understood that Quiksilver, despite its commitment to the Gold Coast, is interested in backing a Margaret River bid.

WCT events are mandatory for the world's top 34 surfers and contribute significantly more points to the world title race.

The top-tier events also attract considerably more exposure, including live television coverage.

"A WCT event for both men and women is certainly a goal of ours and while we are happy with our current event rating we would certainly jump at the opportunity should a WCT licence become available," Mr Lane said.

"We are in the early stages of investigating this opportunity and, from our discussions with the surfers themselves, sponsors, the ASP and other stakeholders we have concluded it is definitely worth pursuing."

Mr Lane said the future $5.9 million upgrade to Surfers Point would also strengthen the WA bid.

ASP international media director Dave Prodan said the surfing body's board of directors had the option to include an extra WCT licence for the Australasian region if it felt it was in the best interest of the sport.

He said Margaret River's competent running of the Margaret River Pro and its world-class waves stood it in good stead.

The West Australian

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