Taitung to host WSL longboard surfing finals

Southeastern Taiwan's Taitung County will host the World Surf League's World Longboard Championships in both 2017 and 2018, the county government and U.S.-based governing body for professional surfing jointly announced March 13.

The decision was finalized when Taitung County Magistrate Justin Huang and WSL Vice President Graham Stapelberg signed a letter of intent the same day on the Gold Coast in Australia. This will mark the first time that Taiwan will stage the finals of a major international surfing tournament.

Under the agreement, the 2017 championships will take place Nov. 23 to Dec. 3 at Jinzun Harbor in the county's Donghe Township, with 54 top male and female longboard surfers from around the world competing for cash prizes totaling US$120,000.

WSL's selection of Taitung represents great recognition of local government efforts to organize major international sporting events, the magistrate said. The 2018 WSL World Longboard Championships are also set to be held at Jinzun Harbor on similar dates to this year's competition.

The finals will be held in conjunction with this year's edition of the annual WSL Men's Qualifying Series 1500, better known as the Taiwan Open of Surfing, which will be staged at the same venue from Nov. 22-26 and offer total prize money of US$25,000. A separate tournament for local surfers with a prize fund of NT$300,000 (US$9,730) will be organized concurrently with the TOS.

Since the competition will be broadcast live on the WSL's website, the event will also promote Taitung internationally as a top tourism destination, according to the local government.

With surfing set to make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games in 2020, Huang said he hopes the upcoming championships will inspire more Taiwan youths to take up the sport.

Taitung has emerged as a popular surfing destination due to its pristine beaches and magnificent waves brought by the winter northeast monsoon winds. According to Huang, the decision to stage the longboard finals in Taitung resulted from many years of close collaboration between local authorities and international surfing organizations as well as the success of the TOS, which the county government has been sponsoring since 2011.

Known for its beautiful coastlines and indigenous culture, Taitung was named one of Lonely Planet's top spots in Asia for 2016 and hailed by the global travel guide as Taiwan's secret wildcard. It is also the venue of the annual Taiwan International Balloon Fiesta, with more than 350,000 visitors flocking to the county last year to view hot air balloons from around the world.

Source: Taiwan Today