Stab Magazine | The WSL vs Hawaii Saga Continues

The WSL vs Hawaii Saga Continues

“Please don’t yank your contests” – Honolulu Mayor, Kirk Caldwell to the WSL.

news // Feb 15, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The ongoing back and forth between the Honolulu Council and the WSL’s Sophie Goldschmidt enters its third week.

After the completion of the Volcom Pipe Pro last week, the WSL’s long-term relationship with Hawaii found itself on increasingly unstable ground.

In brief, the WSL missed a November 9 deadline to amend their existing permit applications, the Honolulu City and County has stated it is unable to provide exemptions within the permitting process, and the WSL responded by implying that they’re considering discontinuing their Hawaiian events – a move beneficial to no-one.

It seems unimaginable that the WSL would ever genuinely consider pulling their Hawaiian events unless they were entirely without alternatives, nevertheless, Honolulu Mayor, Kirk Caldwell responded to the threats in a more conciliatory tone than his previous media outings.

“My request to the World Surf League, which I recognize is an incredibly important organization, is please don’t yank your contests. We’ve heard your concerns, and we’d like to see what we can do to make it better in the future, but let’s not hurt folks in the short term.”

Mayor Caldwell also reiterated why the changes – which the WSL claims to be merely administrative – were a significant issue. Caldwell stated that they received 26 individual North Shore contest applications for the coming 2018-19 season.

“Twenty-three out of the 26 were in direct conflict with each other”

With the competition for permits so high, officials do not want to be perceived as granting preferential treatment to an organisation that failed to follow established procedure.

Personally, I’m intrigued as to who these other parties are: the ISA, the no longer existent World Bodyboard tour or maybe even an up and coming World Hydrofoil League?

Whoever the applications are from, it’s incredibly unlikely they’re as big as the WSL, or that their events would draw crowds as large as those the WSL consistently holds – which is, in itself, an issue. Impact on the local community is considered when granting permits. Two Pipe Masters, back-to-back, in one winter would bring the entire stretch to a grinding halt, intermittently, but regularly, for two months.

While the WSL’s financial contribution to the Honolulu economy is minor, in the grander scheme, it’s hard to deny that the events play a vital role in that of the North Shore. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that replacement events would garner the same attendance and attention as WSL sanctioned contests. 

On Tuesday, as reported by Pacific Business News (PBN), the City and County of Honolulu released a preliminary roster for the upcoming surf season and the relevant organisations have 10 days to dispute the proposed calendar.

This calendar does not include the WSL’s wishes to run two consecutive Billabong Pipe Masters, instead the calendar for the WSL would run as it always has – the Billabong Pipe Masters in December and the Volcom Pipe Pro in January.  

The WSL informed PBN that they will not be appealing the City’s proposed calendar, instead, they will explore alternative options around the world. Essentially, reiterating the possibility that the WSL will pull its events from Hawaii altogether.

In light of all the recent debacle, Mayor Caldwell also stated that he will be commissioning a new “surfing advisory committee” to prevent these issues occurring in the future.

As far as the immediate future is concerned though, the fate of professional surfing in Hawaii rests in the hands of the WSL. It is unlikely that Mayor Caldwell will retreat from his earlier decision to refuse to intervene on behalf of the WSL, so whether we see any WSL events gracing the North Shore next winter is up to Ms Goldschmidt and the WSL team.

And if the WSL does decide to follow through on its threats to leave the island, where would the substitute event be held? I know that the recently firing ‘Tamawatu’ is certainly an option the WSL should consider.



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