Surfing

COVID forces suspension of men's World Surf League opener in Hawaii

Positive tests among staff including WSL CEO Erik Logan curtail Pipe Masters after women's Maui Pro was postponed following a shark incident.

By Rory Jiwani ·

A shark attack and the COVID pandemic have abruptly curtailed surfing's attempts to get back up and running in Hawaii.

On Tuesday (8 December), the World Surf League cancelled competition for the day at the women's Maui Pro after a recreational surfer was bitten close to the event in Honolua Bay.

The following day, WSL announced they would be moving the event to an alternative site with the victim, a 56-year-old man, dying in hospital on Thursday.

Now, the men's Pipe Masters on Oahu has been suspended following an outbreak of coronavirus among WSL staff with CEO Erik Logan among at least 10 people testing positive.

In a statement, WSL said those affected were self-isolating and that they did not believe any athletes had been exposed.

This was the first step on the WSL Championship Tour and the only one where the men and the women would be competing in different locations.

And despite protocols to ensure event safety such as physical distancing and screening measures including temperature checks, the Pipe Masters has been unable to reach its conclusion.

After winning the Pipe Invitational to earn a place in the main event, local surfer Joshua Moniz took down two former world champions - Gabriel Medina and Adriano de Souza - in his heat.

Weeks after he spoke to Olympic Channel about his preparation for surfing's Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, John John Florence looked in ominously good form on home water.

Florence said his knee was now "100 percent" after surgery which ruled him out of most of the 2019 season, and showed it as he cruised through his heat.

The women's Maui Pro was suspended after three of the quarter-finals had been completed.

Two-time world champion Tyler Wright had just lit up the event, posting the first perfect 10 ride of the season to put out seven-time champ Steph Gilmore.

The Australian is clearly right back to her best after a long struggle with illness.

But then news came through of the shark attack which would prove fatal with WSL announcing that the competition would be completed elsewhere.

WSL now faces a challenge common to many sports at this time with regard to the pandemic, not only in rescheduling the two events but also in staging the rest of the calendar.

The second stop of the Championship Tour - the Sunset Open - is also scheduled for Oahu, the same venue as the Pipe Masters, in mid-January.

And then in early February is the Santa Cruz Pro in California, most of which is back under lockdown after a surge in COVID infections.