The Pipe Masters isn't a contest but a film set
No sooner had news arrived that the Pipeline Masters was suspended due to COVID, that the speculation began mounting.
The WSL didn't help their case by making just one brief announcement, with online commentary providing the substantial counterweight.
It was noted by some commenters that the Woz has classified the Hawaiian competitions "non-spectator film productions", and it was assumed they'd cleverly accessed a loophole.
A press release dated 30th November appeared to confirm the ruse: "..the WSL has been collaborating with state and county leaders in Hawaii, in addition to public health and medical experts, which allowed the competition to move forward as a non-spectator film production with comprehensive coronavirus protocols in place."
However, what at first seems a cunning bureacratic sidestep - call the webcast a film production and sound the hooters - is a factual description: the Pipeline Masters is a film set. The Maui Pro was one too.
Back on the 4th December, Apple TV+ - Apple's new streaming service - signed the World Surf League to a six-part documentary series that will, according to the press release, "provide a behind-the-scenes look at the aspirations, failures and accomplishments of the world’s best surfers as they battle for the WSL Title and struggle to remain on the elite WSL Championship Tour."
Part 1 began filming on December 4th at Maui and when the first heats of the Pipe Masters were surfed on December 9th the production team were there to film that too.
It's unknown how much Apple paid the WSL to co-operate and grant access, however Apple TV+ is the latest shot in the streaming wars, a worthy competitor to Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, and the amount wouldn't have been insignificant. Aside from direct income to the beleaguered League, the deal exposes pro surfing to all ten million AppleTV+ subscribers and is a dangling carrot for sponsors.
As one commenter noted on Swellnet, "The thing with filming permits, though, is that if any of the crew contract covid, the entire production needs to shut down immediately to comply with Hawaii state laws."
Swellnet has no idea if this is true. We went looking for answers, found volumes of 'rules and regulations in the age of COVID' but nothing that confirms a production has to be shut down upon infection. However, any production member who tests positive has to be quarantined for fourteen days, and we know Erik Logan was one of those infected. Logan is not only the Wozzle CEO, he's also the Executive Producer for the coming Apple TV+ series.
With the EP off the set, will the Pipe Masters continue? It's impossible to say, and far be it from us to speculate on that.
It's worth considering, however, that back in July, Scott Morrison announced a $400 million incentive for overseas film productions to set up shop in Australia. The amount is a sizable extension to the existing Location Incentive grant.
After the three US contests, the Championship Tour planned to head down under for three more - Bells, Margarets, and the Gold Coast - all of which were to be filmed by production company Box to Box Films and appear to meet the guidelines for qualification. There's even been rumours of two more CT contests in Australia if travel to Brazil and South Africa proves troublesome.
Swellnet's own contribution to the rumour mill is that, even if the Woz waves the white flag at Pipe, the Aussie leg will go ahead by hook or by crook. The Wozzle's Aussie connection has form on the board when it comes to pivoting towards the guidelines and accessing government largesse.