Citing concerns about crowds, state suspends surf contests in Hawaii until further notice

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Updated: Jan. 5, 2021 at 5:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Citing health and safety concerns caused by the pandemic, the state pulled the plug on all surf contests Tuesday until further notice.

“Unlike other professional and amateur events held on private property, the enforcement of crowds and large gatherings on public property will be challenging,” said state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Director Mike McCartney, in a statement.

Former Triple Crown of Surfing Executive Director Randy Rarick agrees with the decision.

“You throw a competition in there, and then you bring so many people together, and it’s impossible to enforce social distancing on the beach,” he said.

“There’s only so much sand and you get a lot more people than you’ve got space for.”

The state’s decision comes on the heels of last month’s Pipeline Masters, which kicked off the World Surf League’s championship tour.

Next up would have been the Sunset Open, with men’s and women’s events. Following the state’s announcement, WSL canceled them along with the Big Wave Jaws Championship Peahi on Maui.

Surf League CEO Erik Logan broke the news to some of the competitors.

“They understand the difficult times that we’re in. They’re disappointed but excited to do the right thing and focus on resuming the championship tour here soon,” he said.

During the Pipe Masters, WSL did 1,100 COVID tests. Only five came back positive.

“That’s a positivity rate of .005%. That’s how confident we were in our protocols,” Logan said.

But he agrees that public health outweighs risk.

Other popular surf events will also be affected by the state’s move. Before COVID-19, surfing pumped millions of dollars into the state’s economy.

Rarick believes even without the pro surf contests, North Shore businesses will still get customers who venture out to see the big waves.

“The industry of the North Shore is surfing, and people come to watch it whether there’s a competition or not,” he said.

The World Surf League also postponed the Santa Cruz Surf Pro in California because of coronavirus concerns.

Logan hopes to restart the championship tour in April in Australia and be back to Hawaii next winter to begin the 2022 season.

“I’m going to hold onto the belief that we’re going to make it happen,” he said.

This story will be updated.

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