Can the WSL pull off a major coup in a time of COVID?
A strange thing happened in this little coastal town recently. Over the last few months, it had been getting busier and busier. There was an inrush of surfers and an influx of visitors. There was a surge of new residents who had decided to get away from the city. We all know the script.
Then there was a recent weekend's celebration, with a reasonably large sports tournament, an outdoor market, and a couple of cool parties with some great live music. The village was full. It wasn't heaving, but there were people.
Now, two weeks later, there's COVID in the hood. It had been relatively COVID-free thus far, with everyone wearing their masks and minding their own businesses, going surfing, ordering takeaways, having beers at home. Now there are a few confirmed cases, and they seem to be climbing. It seemed to stem from a party, at one of the local bars. The infected people are all around their early 20's. A couple of surfers. They call these things superspreader events. We know this script too.
The point is that many such towns all over the world have not yet felt the effects of the pandemic. People have just been surfing and going to pubs and carrying on with life. Still, at some stage, they too will be hit by the pandemic. It is merely a matter of time.
On top of that, there is the second wave, causing nations to go into the second lockdown and other forms of lockdown behaviour. Melbourne is locked down under stage 4. The UK is locked down under 3 tiers, and other European countries are looking sketchy. Brazil is still groaning under the weight of it all, and the USA is still looking pretty average when it comes to recovery.
So how are the CT surfers with their entourages, and the production crew and WSL staff going to all get to Hawaii in just over a month to run an event there? The first event is the Shiseido Maui Pro presented by ROXY, on Maui, Hawaii on November 25 - December 6, 2020.
Here are some of the requirements needed to get into Hawaii at the moment. https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/#travel-FAQs
While not impossible, it is a bit of a logistical nightmare, and the elephant in the room has not even been mentioned yet. Do all the CT surfers actually want to go to Hawaii? For some, there is a lot of travelling involved. Significant distances to cover, limited planes flying, possibly very long waits in desolate airports, with shops closed.
Many doctors and medical professionals will agree that the actual situation on the ground is probably not that risky. We all know this. We could easily run a surf contest off with a few basic protocols, but that's not how it works. It's all about legislation and the rule of law.
In South Africa, for example, the government has published protocols for those that wish to run a sanctioned surfing event. These published protocols and rules run on for 7 pages, but some that are interesting are these:
- The maximum number of attendees at any event is 50. This includes athletes, officials and staff.
- Masks must be worn by athletes, officials and staff at all times (except for athletes while competing in their heats)
- Spectators are not permitted to be part of the event. As with other sports, no spectators are allowed to interact with athletes or officials.
- All officials and staff members over 60, and those with comorbidities must be protected with PPE's as indicated by the
The Hawaiian outdoor sports protocols can be found here -
It can be done, we have seen what the WSL has been putting out there, in Australia, Brazil, France, and in various other locations around the world. Still, they are in effect, micro-events: skeletal staff, minimal infrastructure, no bells, no whistles.
For us, the fans, all we want is a good quality webcast feed, some radical surfing, inspiring banter from the commentators, and a whiff of excitement if the waves at Pipe are up. To get to that point in just over a month, the WSL will need to move mountains. Let's hope they can.