HONOLULU(KHON2) — The State is suspending surf competitions in Hawaii due to health concerns surrounding the pandemic. Most of the events were scheduled to take place on Oahu’s North Shore.

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The North Shore is known for its monster winter surf, and is home to the world’s premier surf competitions drawing huge crowds and millions of dollars to the economy.

Surf contests are the latest casualty of COVID-19–with the state suspending them until further notice.

A spokesperson from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) wrote that : 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. The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism consulted with the Department of Health, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the Governor’s office in making this decision.

Kanani Oury, manager at Stone Fish Grill in Haleiwa, said the news is disappointing.

“It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t find a way to make sure that it was safe for everyone that was involved in that, to make sure that the spectators and everyone were able to come out and safely enjoy the event. It’s kind of a bummer because it’s something that everybody on the North Shore looks forward to. But at the same time, safety is the first and most important thing.”

North Shore Chamber of Commerce Manager Roxana Jimenez said the contests would have provided many businesses struggling due to the pandemic with a much needed boost.

“People island-wide pass through Haleiwa to go to these surf competitions, and that it means everything to every single business here on the North Shore.”

Oury has worked in the restaurant business in Haleiwa for two decades. She said it’s hard to gauge how much of an impact it will have.

“In this COVID environment, it’s hard to tell just how much business was lost, because we’re already starting from a completely different point than usual. What I can say is, during the surf competitions, the weeks that they run, we normally see probably about a 30 percent increase in business. I’m not sure if it would have been as large this year, or if it would have still been affected by COVID,” Oury explained.

The World Surf league cancelled its championship tour event, the Sunset Open, which was scheduled to run at Sunset Beach January 19 to 28. They also cancelled the Big Wave Jaws Championship Peahi on Maui.

The cancellations mean crews that film and broadcast the contests, companies that provide tents, caterers who cook for the surfers, and countless others small vendors, are all out of work.

In a statement, a spokesperson for WSL said:
“The WSL prioritizes local vendors and hiring at all of its Hawaii events, and was looking forward to continuing to provide economic opportunities for local staff and the North Shore community via the Sunset Open. Though the Sunset Open has been cancelled, the WSL remains committed to investing in local communities through our events, and will continue to do so as soon as we are able to resume competitions in Hawaii.”

The WSL was able to hold some of its events in November and December.

“We definitely saw a boost, things were back to life, things seemed normal again,” Jimenez said. “We’ve been pretty successful at weathering the storm. We’re very pleased with how the kamaaina have supported businesses during this crisis.”

Oury hopes people continue to make the drive to North Shore.

“Come out and see us. The food’s still good, there’s still waves and there’s still people surfing.”

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