Some of the biggest names in world surfing could be heading to New Zealand.

The Herald understands discussions are advanced for Auckland to host a World Surf League challenger event.

In documents obtained by the Herald, the event is pitched as a World Qualifying Series 10,000 — the highest ranked competition on the WSL's qualifying circuit.

It is normally restricted to the top 100 surfers, and are often those picked by surfers looking to re-qualify for the following WSL season.


Six of the 63 events are 10,000s, with only one — South Africa — in the Southern Hemisphere.

The annual event, believed to be called the "Piha Pro" would be staged for the first time at the famous Auckland West Coast beach in March 2020.

It's also understood that discussions have been held with arguably the greatest surfer of all time, 11-times men's world champion, Kelly Slater.

The legendary American is believed to be keen to head Down Under to use the event as preparation for the season-opening event on Australia's Gold Coast. Slater was in Piha earlier this year and is thought to have loved his time.

Iconic surfer Kelly Slater could be on his way to Auckland. Photo / Photosport
Iconic surfer Kelly Slater could be on his way to Auckland. Photo / Photosport

Seven-time women's world champion Stephanie Gilmore has also expressed her interest in heading to New Zealand, with this event the ideal excuse for her to.

In addition to the pair, 112 of the best male surfers in the world and 60 of the best female surfers in the world would ascend on Piha, culminating in 85 per cent of the world's top surfers.

The event would be broadcast live on TV to over 600 million people, while there would be at least 20 thousand attendees in person.

The domestic media and PR coverage would result in over $10 million, while also put money into the local economy, particularly through accommodation and hospitality.


The timing of the event would capitalize on arguably a time of peak interest in surfing.

For the first year ever, this year there are New Zealanders in both the men's and women's competitions, with Ricardo Christie and Paige Hareb competing.

Paige Hareb is one of New Zealand's best surfers. Photo / Photosport
Paige Hareb is one of New Zealand's best surfers. Photo / Photosport

There are also several Kiwis in the qualifying circuit, including Billy Stairmand, Ella Williams, and Piha's own Elliot Paerata-Reid.

The current priority judge on the WSL is also 2011 Grand Masters world champion Iain "Ratso" Buchanan. Buchanan is also the owner of a local surf equipment and clothing shop in Piha.

The sport will also be introduced at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo, while a 2017 study found that there are 300,000 active surfers in New Zealand, 85 per cent of which are aged 18-44.

As well as the Piha Pro, as part of a festival of surfing, organisers are aiming to stage the Australasia Pro Junior Event WSL freestyle/expression session on March 14-15 and the New Zealand trials on March 16.

The winners of the national trials would gain entry into the Piha Pro which starts on the 17th and runs until the 22nd. The New Zealand club championships would then follow the Piha Pro, culminating in over a week of surfing action.

There's also said to be a strong focus on sustainability and the environment — something that's thought to have a meaningful connection to the Piha community.

"The Piha Pro aims to be the most sustainable event in New Zealand with activations Auckland wide inspiring, educating and actioning kiwis to take care of the world where we live," the documents say.

As part of this, competitors will lead campaigns, host discussions and create opportunities for the community to come together for change.

This will include all 172 athletes taking part in a beach clean across 17 regional Auckland beaches on one day.

This is in association with the WSL's Protection, Understanding and Respecting the Environment (PURE) programme.

The not-for-profit commitment is aimed at inspiring, educating, and empowering the global surf community to protect oceans.

The event will wrap up with musical and sponsorship events around Auckland, primarily at its CBD headquarters.

Local (Auckland) government is understood to be supportive of the idea, as are central government. All that seems to be stopping the Piha Pro from happening, is money.