Surfing: Piha Pro event cancelled due to coronavirus scare

West Auckland's Piha Pro Surf is the latest sporting event cancelled due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

As organisers put the finishing touches to the venue, the World Surf League has announced all competitions scheduled for March are cancelled, including the official launch of its season on the Gold Coast (March 26-April 5).

"This is out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our athletes, fans and staff," says WSL chief executive Erik Logan.

"Coronavirus is having massive consequences for sporting events and gatherings of all kinds around the world, and we are no different.

"We did not take this decision lightly, as we are aware that if has a significant impact on the surfing community.

"From the standpoint of social responsibility, we also take very seriously the role our events might play in accelerating the spread of the virus. We've been in close contact with our athletes and we feel strongly that this is the right thing to do right now." 

The Auckland event, part of the WSL Challenger Series, was already under the shadow of an unfortunate choice of major sponsor - the Corona beer brand.

But surfing icon Kelly Slater, an 11-time world champion, had already touched down in New Zealand, while 2015 world champ Adriano de Souza and four-time women's titleholder Carissa Moore were also expected to compete.

More than 100 international surfers were entered.

While the WSL announcement referred to cancelling "all events yet to commence at all tour levels, wordwide for the remainder of March", the competition website lists Piha Pro as merely "postponed", perhaps leaving the door ajar for rescheduling.