Like many surf fans, I rolled out of bed on a Sunday morning hoping to be greeted by the Pipe Masters tossing yawning caverns across my TV. It was to be the ultimate antidote to yesterday’s boozy, Christmas lunch with mates. Pipe + couch + plus + coffee equals perfect hangover cure.

Instead, the comp was off and the WSL was confronted with a problem to which there is currently no sure-fire cure. The following official message screamed across the WSL home page. “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.”

While disappointing for fans the announcement of the news has angered many of the Hawaiian locals who fear the spread of COVID on the island of Oahu. The stats show that thus far Oahu has registered 206 deaths and 16183 cases of COVID. While the busier south shore (Honolulu) may have been responsible for most of the cases, the North Shore has remained relatively unaffected by the virus and the local population is intent on keeping it that way, even if it means foregoing the annual surf show.

Commenting on the WSL Instagram, legendary Hawaiian-based shaper Jeff Bushman wrote, “Why would you even come to the North Shore in these crazy times? You are endangering the entire NS community for your own monetary gain. Please go home.”

Meanwhile, others were adamant the show must go on. Californian based, former CT surfer Brett Simpson wrote, “Lock the staff up. Let these surfers surf man! WE are losing our sport! I don’t see any other sport shutting…”

No doubt the mood is a little tense on the North Shore right now with opinion divided on how to progress. It seems a couple of confirmed cases amongst staff will not automatically disqualify the WSL from re-booting the competition, but they may be faced with stiff opposition from local groups.

Other sports have dealt with COVID cases amongst players and officials and carried on. Christiano Ronaldo, one of the world’s biggest soccer players tested positive for the virus in October. Games continued in the Italian Serie A and European Champions Leagues and Ronaldo returned for his club Juventus in November. However, each sporting situation is different and one can appreciate the concerns of a North Shore community who is aware an outbreak could turn the seven-mile miracle into the seven-mile nightmare.

Whatever transpires it has been a helluva start to the 2021 season for the beleaguered WSL. After a fatal shark attack forced them to abandon Honolua Bay on Maui as the site for the women’s event they are now dealing with a COVID threat within their ranks. Running the sport of professional surfing has never been a tougher gig.