The Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay, Event No. 5 of 11 on the ASP World Championship Tour, has been officially downgraded to an ASP qualifying event for 2012.

Jordy Smith will not have a chance to defend his Billabong Pro title as the event has been downgraded. Photo: ASP

This means that the top professional surfers in the world will probably not come and surf the event anymore as it will now be just a qualifying event for the World Championship Tour.

In an official statement , Billabong said: “The change in event status follows a broader review in which we are seeking to identify cost savings throughout the business. By retaining an event at Jeffreys Bay, it now provides two qualifying events back to back in the South African region.

The move to an ASP 6-Star also opens the event up to South Africa’s aspiring pro surfers for the first time in 20 years and ensures continuity of the event for the localbusinesses in Jeffreys Bay.”

The downgrade drops the 2012 ASP World Championship Tour calendar from 11 events to 10, with surfers now counting their best 8 out of 10 results towards their ASP World Title ranking.

“We agreed as a Board that whilst very regrettable, the commercial realities are such that a pragmatic approach by ASP at this time seemed sensible,” Richard Grellman, ASP Executive Chairman, said. “Billabong have been long-time supporters of professional surfing and still sponsor three of the ten World Championship Tour events and we look forward to our deep relationship with them continuing.”

Just what effect the downgrade of the Billabong Pro will have on Jeffreys Bay remains to be seen. Over the years July has seen a mini tourism boom as the town has filled up with people coming from all over South Africa and the world to watch the best surfers in the world take on the best right hand point break in the world.

The international media coverage will certainly be missed as television crews from Europe, America, Brazil and South Africa used to document more than just surfing when they were in town. This was in effect free marketing for Jeffreys Bay and will no longer be happening for a downgraded event.

A watered down WCT qualifying event is not really what the town needs. What are the possibilities of another surf company sponsoring a World Championship event in the void left by the downgrade?

The one positive will be the opportunity the downgrade will provide to the young guns in the Jeffreys Bay line up like Dylan Lightfoot to earn valuable qualifying points at their home break in their quest to break through into the upper echelons of professional surfing.

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