State puts halt on surfing competitions

  • Diesel Butts competes in the final Hawaii Surfing Association contest of last season.

The state announced Tuesday that it’s suspending surfing competitions indefinitely because of health and safety concerns. The move isn’t likely to immediately change much on the Big Island, where events have long been put on hold because of the pandemic, Stan Lawrence, owner of Orchidland Surfboards, said.

“There hasn’t been anything going on,” Lawrence said. “No contests.”

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The shutdown has included the Lawrence-organized Big Island Pro-Am, which was canceled in 2020, as well as Hawaii Amateur Surfing Association events, he said.

In a statement issued by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, the state said the decision came “following many discussions with health and natural resource leaders.

“The public health and safety of our communities, contestants, spectators and guests is first and foremost in this decision. Unlike other professional and amateur events held on private property, the enforcement of crowds and large gatherings on public property will be challenging.”

At least two World Surf League meets will be effected by the state’s suspension, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The WSL’s Jaws Championship, men’s and women’s big-wave competition on Maui, was scheduled to run between January and March, and the Sunset Open for women and men was scheduled for Jan. 19-28 on the North Shore of Oahu.

Lawrence said he’s taking a wait-and-see approach in regards to this year’s Big Island Pro-Am. The event’s holding period usually begins in May or June at Honolii.

“It’s hard to say what’s going to happen and if we’re going to be given the all-clear to go along with events,” Lawrence said. “We’ll have to see if the vaccination keeps progressing. We’re actually doing OK with the virus here.

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“But I don’t want to attract a big crowd and for it to turn into a super spreader event where the contest gets blamed for the virus growing.”

The Billabong Pipe Masters was held on the North Shore last month under a film permit approved by the city and state that did not allow on-site spectators, according to the Star-Advertiser.