Hawaii & Alaska
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HI - Annual Hawaii Surf Competition Kicks off Amid Virus Concerns

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s biggest surfing competition of the year has started amid ongoing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus among fans eager to watch the action.

The 2020 Billabong Pipe Masters began Tuesday on Oahu’s North Shore and is scheduled to run through Dec. 20, with crowds watching surfers ride waves reaching up to 30 feet (9.1 meters) high, Hawaii Public Radio reported.

Hundreds of spectators were in attendance at Ehukai Beach Park on the first day, with few wearing masks and limited social distancing.

The World Surf League, which organizes the annual event, has changed the event’s format in an attempt to reduce the large crowds associated with pro-surfing contests.

The organization is trying to minimize the number of people who watch in person by eliminating announcers and other public attractions that are normally staples of surfing events, said Michele Nekota of the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation, which issues permits for the competitions.

“They are basically advertising as a virtual event, so we’re having competitors, but not spectators,” Nekota said.

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