Farewell Fronton: Another Iconic Wave Is Cut From The World Tour
It’s time to bid a teary-eyed farewell to yet another iconic wave from the world tour – for 2018, at least.
The Fronton King 2018 has just been cut from the APB schedule. With the absence of the iconic Canary Islands wave, this year’s tour will now consist of just four locations, with October's Nazare leg being the one where we'll crown the next world champ.
APB CEO Alex Leon put the cancellation down to delays in 2017 grand slam payments by local organisers; with the event running late on its deadline, the APB board was forced to agree on cancelling for 2018. Adds Leon, “We also had some disagreements with the promoter over media rights.” So seemingly, there are a couple of things at play here.
Despite the cancellation, a recent post on the Fronton King Instagram suggests the competition will still be going ahead as planned – minus the support of the APB – with an updated waiting period and fresh format. Basically, full steam ahead where the now independent event is concerned. (We've reached out to the organisers of the Fronton King for comment but are yet to receive a response).
What does this mean for the current tour riders and, in particular, the ones who shine at El Fronton? Will this spanner in the works throw off the 2018 world champ hopefuls who ditched the admittedly lacklustre conditions of the Kiama Pro, in the hopes that they could clinch enough points at the Canaries decider? Will pros and fans alike stick with the APB after the removal of almost all waves of consequence from the world tour – Pipeline, Teahupoo and now Fronton?
As a 2018 frontrunner, the winner of the 2017 Fronton King and an APB board member, Jared Houston has something to say about the loss of El Fronton. “It’s a pretty massive shame – it’s the best wave in the world and I feel it benefits the tour,” he said. “But the APB and the local promoter just couldn’t reach terms. I’m the first to recognise that running a world tour event is expensive and logistically challenging but all other promoters have met the minimum requirements this year. Why can’t Fronton?”
Late payments aside, Houston believes reducing the costs lumped on local promoters to host a world tour event might be a positive way forward. “It could make the tour more sustainable and profitable for everyone.”
Pierre-Louis Costes is also no stranger to the glory of El Fronton, having clinched his 2016 world title at the very wave. “Fronton means so much to me, it has given me everything in my career," he said. "It separates us from any other wave-riding sport." Though without the APB backing, he's not a guaranteed presence. "The fact that the Fronton King this year has no points towards the APB final rankings means it is not a priority anymore to participate. But if the opportunity is given I may go, as competing at my favourite wave in the world is something hard to resist."
It remains to be seen whether world tour riders, specifically the top 24, will even be able to compete in the new iteration of the Fronton comp. Iain Campbell believes the top riders are contracted to surf at APB events only, but according to Leon, this remains in discussion.
Campbell, the 2017 world champion, stands by the decision of the APB. “I will not be heading there to compete this year. I want to back the decision of the APB. I feel that me going to ride an event that isn’t 100% sanctioned by the APB is going against everything that the association stands for. It’s always a hard decision to call an event off, especially when there is a wave like Fronton at stake, but I feel the APB is making the right decision and I back them."
The APB is, seemingly, not at fault in this scenario – action needed to be taken and it was. But that doesn't stop fans and riders from feeling disappointed, that one of the best bodyboarding waves in the world has been cut, and that there's not much else on the schedule to be excited about. On the plus side, Leon is hopeful Fronton will return in 2019. But even if it did, will the people still be here to enjoy it?
This article has been amended to clarify comments made by Jared Houston regarding El Fronton's place on the APB World Tour.