Stab Magazine | Is The Hawaiian Leg Of The World Tour Under Threat?

Is The Hawaiian Leg Of The World Tour Under Threat?

The City of Honolulu is withholding a decision on the WSL’s competitive permits for 2019.

Words by stab

For months, the World Surf League has been planning a number of changes for the 2019 competitive season; the most pertinent of these changes being a shift from holding the Pipe Masters in December to early February, as conditions are consistently better towards the close of the Hawaiian winter – see the Volcom Pipe Pro for proof.   

In mid-December, the WSL formally lodged its applications to the City of Honolulu, outlining their wishes to make minor changes to their North Shore schedule. These proposed variations are largely administrative and involve no increase in competition length or the dates on which the WSL’s competitions are held.

The Honolulu Star Advertiser has reported that if these issues are not resolved, then the North Shore may lose its WSL sanctioned events for 2019. If this were to occur, then the likelihood of the WSL returning promptly to the North Shore is unlikely.

The Honolulu Mayor, Kirk Caldwell has responded to the issue publically and accused the WSL of attempting to “usurp” the usual sanctioning processes; furthermore, adding that, “The WSL missed deadlines in the process and now they’re trying to take dates that others have applied for prior to the process being completed.”

Fanning 8426 Pipe15Masurel2

Mayor Caldwell has also stated that “the city does does not guarantee permits or give preference to returning events.” Here’s Mick Fanning in a traditional Hawaiian liquid shelter. Photo: WSL

Mayor Caldwell has also stated that “the city does does not guarantee permits or give preference to returning events.” However, considering the ASP/WSL’s competitive reign upon the North Shore for decades, it seems ludicrous that any other organisation or competition would take their place.

Stop and consider the consequences of these decisions. The potential for  a surfing World Tour to take place without the presence of any North Shore events; a World Champion decided without the need to paddle out Pipeline; or the impact on the North Shore’s economy during the winter months if those big name surfers and dedicates surf fans no longer make the annual commute.

The WSL CEO, Sophie Goldschmidt reiterated the importance of the North Shore to both Hawaii, as well as the surfing world tour. “We love Hawaii and we’re very passionate in our belief that Hawaii is one of the most important surf locations in the world”. Adding that “the changes we’re (WSL) implementing are for the benefit of all, including Hawaii.”

A sentiment which Sunny Garcia, former World Champion and six-time Triple Crown winner, agreed with, “Having these events, with the world’s best surfers, is so important for surfers from Hawaii, culturally, for the community and economically.”

Additionally, Sunny spoke of the positives which the WSL’s competition bring to the North Shore community during the winter competitive season. “The community loves these events, and all Hawaiian surfers want the advantage of performing in their own backyard, in front of their home crowd.”

Pipe crowd shot

“Hawaii and surfing are synonymous with one another so it’s important to support and bolster both the culture and the sport of surfing in Hawaii. A big part of that long tradition is pro surfing’s premier events being held on the North Shore.” – Kelly Slater. Photo: WSL

Kelly Slater also added his opinions on the continuing issue:

“Hawaii and surfing are synonymous with one another so it’s important to support and bolster both the culture and the sport of surfing in Hawaii. A big part of that long tradition is pro surfing’s premier events being held on the North Shore. The changes happening are important for the tour and will have zero negative impact on the local community. It’s really nothing more than a trade of days and names of events at Pipeline so I hope the process can be seen as that clear and easy.”

Whilst the WSL missed the end of November deadline enforced by the City of Honolulu, this deadline was only exceeded by a small two-week period; a negligible amount of time considering these changes are not due to be enforced until the start of 2019.

Moreover, as Sophie Goldschmidt added, “We’re not asking to add any windows or days. It’s a very minimal administrative issue. From our perspective, it’s a no brainer.” 

The City of Honolulu has not budged on their position and have stated that they need more time before a decision is raised; however, the WSL is understandably wanting to finalise their 2019 roster so the fast approaching 2019 season can be adequately planned. 

Matt Paul Catalano Haw

Surely there’s an unread email in the depths of some administrator’s inbox? Photo: Matt Paul Catalano

At this stage, let’s hope to see an amicable resolution which allows the WSL to continue holding competitions in the world’s best waves on the North Shore of Oahu. Whether you’re a loyal fan of the competitive format or not you can’t deny the excitement of the Hawaiian leg of the CT season; the Pipe Masters, Triple Crown and 10,000 QS events. 

World class surfing events have been held on the North Shore for close to 50 years, as the State Senator and former World Champion, Fred Hemmings points out. It is difficult to imagine a Hawaiian winter without the presence of the Triple Crown, Pipe Masters and the array of WSL sanctioned QS events which are held every year on Oahu. 

More to come on the issue over the following days. We’re certainly hoping that this all turns out to be an overblown storm in an administrative teacup.


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