Craving to compete again, surfers question why competitions are still on hold

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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – Many Hawaii surfers are upset and confused over why youth sports are allowed, but surf competitions are still on hold.

“If you’re going to allow other sports to be happening, then it kind of needs to be equal rights across the board for all sports, whether there’s certain rules for this sport or that sport, they should be able to compete,” said surf coach Kahea Hart.

The Hawaii Surfing Association is still waiting for permits to be approved by the city and state for the state championships at Ala Moana Beach Park.

The contest is a qualifier event for the USA Surfing Championships in California in June.

“It’s the steppingstone, or the platform that our kids have to follow their dreams of becoming professional surfers. We have world champions that come from Hawaii, Carissa Moore, Sunny Garcia, Derek Ho,” Hart said.

The Hawaii Surfing Association said state officials told them by email that “at this time, all marine event permits for surf competitions are on hold.”

The Honolulu city parks department says there’s a risk that comes when spectators want to see live surf competitions and it creates the potential for large gathering sizes.

“An attempt was made to accommodate these surf events during pandemic, with event organizers streaming the competition and limiting public viewing areas during the WSL Billabong Pipemaster. However, large groups continued to gather to watch the events, a cluster of COVID cases emerged, and ultimately this pilot program did not continue,” said Nathan Serota, spokesman for Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation.

Hart says amateur surf contests aren’t the same.

“At the state championships I think maybe at one point there’s a maximum of six kids in the water, and then for the finals, it’s four kids. Of course we would play by the rules on land, everyone keep your mask on,” he said.

Governor David Ige said the state is focusing on vaccinating as many people as possible first.

“Our entire community is really focused on getting to herd immunity, getting vaccinated and encouraging everyone to get vaccinated as quickly as we can,” said Ige. “Certainly, could look to working with surf enthusiasts, as well as everyone to really focus on completing the job.”

Hart said local youth need local contest experience to get to the next level.

“If we don’t have them competing and practicing in their competitions, we could be missing out on the next professional champion.”

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