Just a few days after the Billabong Pipe Masters fired the starting gun, it was called off for an undetermined amount of time. On December 11, the League released the following statement as an explanation: “The WSL has decided to suspend the Billabong Pipe Masters presented by Hydro Flask competition as a result of positive COVID-19 tests within the WSL staff, including WSL CEO Erik Logan.” After a period of silence regarding when and how the event might resume, it was announced Wednesday morning that the Pipe Masters is back on. In the same press release, Logan announced that the recently-canceled Maui Pro at Honolua will resume at Pipeline. It will be the first time a women’s CT event has been held there. The Maui Pro was called off after a surfer was killed by a shark in the early morning hours before the contest started.
“Today, I’m pleased to announce that we are ending our suspension of the Billabong Pipe Masters presented by Hydro Flask and we’ll look to run competition over the coming days with a promising forecast,” Logan wrote in a release. “A mammoth amount of work has gone into getting professional surfing back, part of which included comprehensive COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of the local community, surfers, and staff.”
For many, it wasn’t much of a surprise when the news broke that COVID was swimming through the Pipeline lineup. We are, after all, in the middle of a global pandemic, and a virus is jumping from person to person like kids playing leapfrog on a playground. The WSL, according to Logan, did everything it could to prevent the virus from getting outside its little bubble.
“Last week,” Logan continued, “the WSL’s COVID-19 protocols identified and isolated a positive case and contact tracing group – of which I was a part – and contained the further spread of the virus. I can attest that it is highly communicable.”
For Logan’s part, it seems he’s aware that the optics of running an event on an island during a pandemic might be bad. Professional surfing and Hawaii — the North Shore of Oahu in particular — have had a special relationship for decades now, and the decision to run the event this year was one that has been questioned. Logan says he’s been in isolation since two days before his actual diagnosis, and that he’s still experiencing mild symptoms.
One of the many complaints from comment boards goes something like this: “if none of the athletes are sick, run the damn event.” That, though, misses the point. If an athlete gets sick, it’s likely they’ll recover just fine. But that athlete could pass it on to someone who won’t be fine. That athlete could pass it on to two other athletes who will also be fine, but those two could pass it on to someone else who will end up in a hospital bed, intubated, scared, and alone.
“One of the reasons I wanted to share my positive test is to demonstrate my – and the WSL’s – utmost respect for our local community, for all the individuals who make the North Shore, and Hawaii, so special,” Logan said. “The trust between our organization and this community is paramount.”
Now Pipe has officially resumed, it will remain a broadcast-only event. No butts on the beach, just butts on couches.
“We are looking forward to completing the opening events of this Championship Tour season here in Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing, in the coming days, and pledge to be deeply vigilant regarding public health in this extraordinary time,” Logan finished. “We have incredible fields this year for the men’s and women’s Championship Tours and we cannot wait to witness what they will accomplish this season. Please join me in continuing to put public health and safety first by watching safely at home.”
Watch the events live on WorldSurfLeague.com.