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Two-team sports are allowed on Oahu, but why aren’t tournaments and contests?

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 9:21 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 10, 2021 at 10:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Large events have been canceled on Oahu for now as part of the latest push to stem the surge in new COVID cases. But it has left some parents wondering why events like surf contests aren’t being held, even though beaches and parks are often packed.

The Hawaii Surf Association Surf Series was slated to start this weekend at Queen’s Beach in Waikiki, while the John “Pops” Ah Choy Surf Fest was scheduled to begin on Tuesday at Kuhio Beach. But they were among the many events whose permits were canceled by the city.

“We’ve only had one in the past, one local contest for the kids in the past two years, so they really got their hopes up that they were going to get it going on,” said Jen Tema.

Her son, Luke, hopes to have a surfing career, but his hopes to advance to national tournaments have been shut out by the shutdown of the surf series.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi canceled all large gatherings on Oahu that exceed the limits of ten people indoors and 25 people outdoors. That rule took effect Aug. 25 and is scheduled to last 28 days.

“It’s hard enough to explain to them that they have to wear masks when they’re healthy at school, but then to explain to them we have to cancel an outdoor surf contest, when there’s four kids in the water and they’re healthy and they’re doing everything they’re supposed to be doing,” said Tema.

The city said it’s not the type of sport, but the event, that is a factor. Practices and two-team games are permitted, like University of Hawaii football games, although they’re currently held without spectators.

On the other hand, the city said tournaments and contests are not allowed.

One example is the U.S. Tennis Association’s Junior Tournament in Waipio, which was canceled Labor Day weekend, even though it can be argued that tennis players are socially distanced during play.

One meet that hasn’t been canceled — at least not yet — is the Moku Hawaiian Longboard Challenge.

“Contestant-wise, it could run anywhere from 50 to 150,” said contest organizer Ernie Maxilom. “And that’s where we’re hoping that everyone’s social distancing, everyone will be on their own, in their section of the beach.”

The Longboard Challenge is set for the final weekend of September, or just two days after the city’s rule against large gatherings is set to expire.

“You’re still holding on the bubble, just stand by, stand by,” is the message Maxilom said he’s been hearing from the government every day. “That’s all we’re going with, is ‘stand by.’”

In a statement, a spokesman for the city Parks and Recreation Department said, “Holding events like this on beaches that are already seeing regular traffic will contribute to the type of large gathering situations that we are trying to avoid amidst this unprecedented surge in the deadlier Delta variant of COVID-19.”

Tema said she’s not buying that explanation.

“(Luke) practices every day, he trained at Queen’s for this surf contest that was supposed to be tomorrow. And I’m sure we’ll go there and see hundreds of tourists enjoying themselves.”

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