Pipeline Masters surf contest could be in jeopardy
The battle over the Pipeline Masters surf contest takes place out of the water, between the WSL and the city.
Hawaii's premier surf contest could be in jeopardy because of a permit problem.
A fight over the "Pipe Masters" between the World Surf League and the City and County of Honolulu.
The Pipeline Masters event is full of death defying drops as top pro surfers pull into big, beautiful barrels off Ehukai Beach. For years it has been the final event of the World Surf League's Championship Tour.
"It makes sense that if you are going to determine a champion at the end of the year, for that to be at the pipeline," said surf legend Fred Hemmings, who was also one of the original organizers of the Pipeline Masters nearly 50 years ago.
He supports the World Surf League in its permit dispute with the city, "I find it ludicrous that civic leaders can't see the wisdom in highlighting the Triple Crown as an asset to Hawaii. And giving it the permits needed to continue this tradition."
Instead of ending the surf season in December, the WSL wants to start the season in January 2019 with the Pipe Masters.
To do so, it would switch that event with its current Volcom Pipe Pro contest.
But the city said that would mean major changes to the permit application and it missed the deadline to make that change.
A statement from Mayor Kirk Caldwell said, "The Department of Parks and Recreation must remain fair to those who followed the rules. However, WSL believes the city should grant their request without hesitation, outside of the established rules, because of their economic impact to the community."
The WSL events generate worldwide attention on Hawaii during the winter. With an economic impact estimated, by some, in the millions.
Without the permit change the WSL said it is, "reluctantly exploring alternative solutions" putting the men's and women's championship events in jeopardy.
It is too late to make a change, according to the mayor, who added, "He and the Director of Parks and Recreation do not have the authority to circumvent the rules, and arbitrarily changing them would be unfair to all parties involved."
Some of the other surf contest organizers support the mayor's decision and expressed concern the change would also affect local surfers, who would not be able to compete when the second Pipe Masters event replaces the Volcom Pipe Pro.
"By eliminating another event that gives them opportunities that will be detrimental to them. Although the WSL caters to worldwide surfers, here in the Hawaii we're family -- we're concern about our own kanaka maoli surfers," said Mahina Chillingworth with Da Hui Backdoor Shootout.
WSL personnel have met with City Council members, and some are willing to draft legislation to allow for more flexibility to the permitting process or even extend the permit beyond the current two years. That may be more appealing to the World Surf League and other contest organizers.
But it remains to be seen, if that will be enough to keep the championship tour events in place.