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WSL suspends Billabong Pipe Masters after CEO, staffers test positive for coronavirus

The World Surf League has suspended the Billabong Pipe Masters by Hydroflask competition at Oahu’s Banzai Pipeline after having received confirmed, positive COVID-19 test results for several WSL staff members, including CEO Erik Logan, according to an Instagram post and an announcement on the organization’s website Friday afternoon.

WSL officials said in the announcement they are working closely with the state Department of Health and “prioritizing the safety of the athletes, staff and surrounding community above all else.”

In a subsequent press release, the office of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell confirmed “the city has been in contact (with) the World Surfing League (WSL) as they shared the news today that five individuals have tested positive with the coronavirus following their testing protocols, and (that) WSL has been in contact with the State Department of Health, and quickly took the appropriate action by suspending activity, making health and safety a top priority.”

Mark Cunningham, a champion bodysurfer and retired Honolulu City and County Ocean Safety lifeguard who served in the tower at Ehukai Beach Park, overlooking the break at Banzai Pipeline, said he had been impressed with WSL’s safety procedures during the competition, which ran on Tuesday and Wednesday and had since been placed on hold due to lack of surf.

“My understanding is they were testing everyone, all competitors, officials, water patrol,” Cunningham said. “On (Wednesday) I went to contest headquarters, in one of the houses in front of Pipe, got my temperature taken and a test, filled out all the paperwork and what have you.”

He added that although the event was closed to spectators but available for livestreamed viewing, he was concerned by the lack of social distance and masking among crowds of people on the beaches outside WSL’s cordoned-off area at Pipeline.

“I just wish more members of the community and surf fans visiting out here would take common sense of masks and social distancing a lot more serious,” Cunningham said.

“I was pretty impressed how WSL cleared the beach between Ehukai Beach Park and the Off the Wall right of way, but there were still hundreds of people on either side, trying to get a glimpse.”

In its announcement, WSL said it did not believe that any athletes had been exposed, and that, as part of the league’s COVID safety plan, “anyone who has returned a confirmed positive test is self-isolating until they are cleared, and contact tracing protocols have been fully implemented.”

The WSL will continue to execute its safety protocols, it added.

Dedicating this Pipe Masters event to the memory of Hawaii surf champion Andy Irons, the 50-year-old Billabong Pipe Masters’ holding period extends through Dec. 20.

The Maui Women’s Pro by Roxy at Honolua Bay, whose holding period runs through Dec. 15, was canceled indefinitely Tuesday due to a fatal shark attack on a non-contestant that morning before the start of the competition.

WSL announced it planned to move the remaining quarterfinal heat, semifinals and finals of the women’s event to another location in Hawaii.

A WSL spokeswoman could not confirm a rumor it would be held at Pipeline.

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