Jaws Championship canceled following state suspension of surf competitions

Maui’s Billy Kemper competes during the World Surf League Jaws Big Wave Championships at Peahi on Dec. 12, 2019. This winter’s event has been canceled. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Maui News

This season’s Big Wave Jaws Championship Peahi has been canceled following a state decision to suspended all surf competitions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism made the announcement of the ban on surf contests Tuesday.

“The public health and safety of our communities, contestants, spectators and guests is first and foremost in this decision,” the department said in a news release. “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.”

In response to the decision, the World Surf League announced that the Jaws Championship — the competition window for which runs through the winter — as well as the Sunset Open, a men’s Championship Tour event on Oahu, have been canceled.

Last month, the WSL completed a pair of events in Hawaii to kick off its 2021 season — the men’s CT Billabong Pipe Masters and the women’s CT Maui Pro, which began at Honolua Bay but was completed at Pipeline on Oahu after a fatal shark attack on a recreational surfer at Honolua.

The Pipe Masters also saw a disruption in its run, taking nearly a week off after several WSL staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

“It is a testament to our surfers, staff, and the local community of Hawaii that we were able to successfully complete both the men’s and women’s opening CT events of the 2021 season, and we would like to thank the communities in both Maui and Oahu for their support,” the WSL said in a statement on its website. “We look forward to safely continuing the 2021 CT season with the Australia leg starting at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in April.”

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s statement was vague in the sense that it only cited “surf competitions” as being suspended, without any specifics pertaining to local amateur contests.

When asked if he was concerned about the Maui Interscholastic League surf season, which usually is held in the spring, MIL co-coordinator Kim Ball said, “No, I don’t see how that pertains to us. That’s like comparing NFL football to MIL football.”

“The cancellation of the World Surf League’s events are like apples and oranges. Those are world tour events with professional athletes that everybody is interested in and is interested in watching those events,” he said. “We’ve had two Hawaii Amateur Surf Association events during the pandemic, one at Hookipa and one at Lahaina Harbor. Strict COVID protocols were followed, there were no outbreaks, everybody was social distancing, everybody was temperature checked. We followed all of the protocols that were mandated by the county. They were successful events.

“I mean, kids need these outlets. It’s no secret what’s happening as far as student-athletes not being able to participate.”


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