The Hawaiian Pro surf meet started Saturday under clear skies with light wind and good swells at Haleiwa Alii Beach Park..
That made for a great start to an annual six-week economic boom for Oahu's North Shore.
The Hawaiian Pro is the first jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The event brings in dozens of staff members along with close to 200 professional surfers.
"Sixty percent of them are traveling from another island or another country, and they're here for six or seven weeks, some for 12 for the whole winter. And that's a long period of time for a guest to stay and spend money," said Vans Triple Crown executive director Jodi Wilmott.
There's also money being spent by visitors who want to watch the athletes and the waves. One of them is Mario Wolf of Hamburg, Germany, decked out in an "Endless Summer" shirt and sporting a tattoo that says "Aloha" on his left bicep.
“Oh this is very big," he said about the surf. "You know we have in Germany, nothing. There’s no chance to have that. You see it sometimes here on the television, and then you are live here and it’s incredible, nice.”
While the big surf brings big traffic, it also means a lot more foot traffic in Haleiwa town. More people stopping to eat, and more people coming in to shop:
“Haleiwa is always busy. But the Triple Crown definitely brings a whole new set of tourists, yes," said Katrice Dowis of the Malibu Shirts.
It's also steady business for Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken, which sets up shop under a tent on the roadside. There were still a handful of people waiting for their plate lunches in mid-afternoon.
"Right now it’s not even like – it’s not even as bad as we get. It’s not even half as bad as we get, actually,” said Amy Abad, as other workers and family members got plates ready.
How much money comes in to Hawaii from the Triple Crown? “Our last study was done around 2011. Around then it was about $11 million dollars of direct (spending), and about 21 million dollars of indirect," said Wilmott.
Since then, the World Surf League has increased the Triple Crown's exposure through live streaming and broadcast agreements in several countries. Wilmott believes that has easily doubled the spending figures.
There are two more events in the Vans Triple Crown, with the holding period ending December 20th.
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