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On Oahu’s North Shore, surf competitions are back ... and so are the crowds

Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 4:17 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 27, 2021 at 10:19 AM HST
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HALEIWA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Oahu’s North Shore is celebrating its first large surf competition since the pandemic started.

The World Surf League’s Michelob Ultra Pure Gold Haleiwa Challenger kicked off Friday and there are high expectations for more competitions, gatherings ― and traffic.

Community members say the competition is drawing a much-needed crowd and that it is surreal to finally be enjoying high-level surfing again.

“It’s definitely nice for people to come out again and have gatherings around town,” said Jennifer Quan, North Shore resident.

“It’s definitely a breath of fresh air after having everything closed for so long.”

The conditions for the competition were also favorable. According to World Surf League officials, surfers had 6- to 8-foot swells during their lineup.

“We haven’t had a contest here in nearly 18 months,” said Marty Thomas, WSL regional tour manager. “It’s great to see surfers around the world come back to Hawaii.”

It’s not just residents enjoying the swell.

California visitor Kush Kakaiya was originally scheduled to visit Hawaii in April, but had to reschedule after getting the wrong test for the Safe Travel program.

So now he’s celebrating Thanksgiving week in the islands.

“I’m thankful I get to be here just to experience,” said California visitor Kush Kakaiya “We wanted to come back. It’s an honor to be here and watch one of the competitions here.”

Businesses were also happy to see the crowds. Surf N Sea Hawaii is trying to make up for those months of pandemic losses.

“It’s great having a surf competition right there,” said Anneke Kincaid, a sales representative for Surf N Sea. “The past few months were tough.”

But Kincaid will admit it is a win-lose situation for residents: More business means more traffic.

“Traffic has been crazy lately,” Kincaid said. “It’s been stop-and-go, especially at the beaches.”

“I’m not going to lie saying it was beautiful without traffic,” said Makua Kai Rothman, a commentary announcer for the competition and pro-surfer.

“But a lot of businesses suffered and tourism is a big economic boost especially on the North Shore.”

Others agreed.

“I think it’s good for the community, economy,” said Robert Wallon, a North Shore resident. “And just the spirit of competition, everyone loves to see it.”

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