International boost for Margaret River Pro
Last year's winner John John Florence.

WA has a new elite sporting event after the State Government pulled off a bid to add the Margaret River Pro to surfing’s top echelon.

The March event will now automatically attract the world’s top 32 male and 18 female surfers who contest every Association of Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour event.

WCT events attract significantly more exposure television coverage than lower tiers, paving the way for the transformation of the small South West town each year as it becomes the focus of the surfing world.

The event will have WCT status for the women’s field next year, with the men’s draw to follow in 2014.

Initial Tourism WA estimates suggest the 21,000 people who attended this year’s event would surge 50 per cent to 31,000 with WCT status, while the value of the international TV exposure would double from $24.5 million.

Surfing WA chief executive Mark Lane, who returned from the United States on Friday, confirmed a deal had been struck with the ASP in California.

“Bringing the best sufers back to our premier surf break every year now is going to be a wonderful motivator to our next generation of up-and-coming young talent,” he said.

There are currently 10 WCT-hosting cities around the world, which will be expanded to 12 including Margaret River.

It will join Victoria’s Bells Beach Rip Curl Pro and Queensland’s Quicksilver Pro on the Gold Coast as elite surfing locations.

Yallingup surfer Taj Burrow, currently fifth on the ASP rankings, said in a statement it was an exciting time for Margaret River.

“The waves in the region are world-class and bring the ASP WCT-level surfers here is going to be big for the region,” he said.

Burrow said he had been jealous of fellow elite Australian surfers Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson, who have a top event in their hometowns each year “and get the advantage of getting sleep in their beds and surfing their local spots”.

“I’m sure all the kids out west will be exited to see the world’s best surfers in their backyard,” Burrow said.

Premier Colin Barnett said it was a fantastic outcome for WA in terms of visitor numbers and international exposure.

The Drug Aware Margaret River Pro will be held from March 16 to 24, 2013.

The West Australian

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