It was revealed on Thursday that the World Surf League (WSL) was not awarded a permit from the City of Honolulu for the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters.

The WSL announced the the City and County of Honolulu Department of Parks & Recreation’s decision in a press release yesterday:

“While all of WSL's historic permits for the winter 2018/2019 have been granted, including the 2018 Billabong Pipe Masters, the WSL remains disappointed that the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters has not been granted. The WSL will pursue alternative options to open the season next year.”

The permit issue was made public earlier in February when the WSL expressed serious concern about their future of running contests on the North Shore of Oahu. It highlighted a dispute between the City and the WSL over the permitting process for the 2018/2019 winter season permits the WSL was seeking.

A new day appears to be dawning for the WSL. Photo: Courtesy of Ed Sloane/WSL

The City followed up with their side of the disagreement, stating that the WSL had missed application deadlines and was seeking to drastically alter their schedule. Their hope was to run the final Championship Tour (CT) event, the Billabong Pipe Masters, at the end of 2018 in December (as they typically do) and then run that contest again in January of 2019 to start their 2019 CT season.

It would have eliminated the 2019 Volcom Pipe Pro contest (a Qualifying Series event) held in January that is used to determine the local wildcards for the Pipe Masters that following December.

Now, it appears the WSL and the City are unwilling to accomodate one another in this issue and that the future of the Billabong Pipe Masters beyond 2018 is in serious jeopardy.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell held a press conference and admitted his disappointment that the WSL will not apply for the 2019 Pipe Masters to be held at Pipeline:

“The WSL has been awarded six events for the 2018/2019 winter surf season on the North Shore, more than any other applicant. I am happy that they decided not to pull out of Hawaii for the upcoming season. I am disappointed that they don't plan to apply for the 2019 Pipe Masters in Hawaii, and I hope they will keep an open mind and reconsider for the sake of giving Hawaii's young local surfers the opportunity to compete on the world stage. We look forward to working with WSL for other events in future years.”

He did also acknowledge that the permit application process could be subject to changes. But he was adamant that he would not infringe on the current application process to help out the WSL, as if anyone else had missed a permit application deadline they would be treated the same.

The six WSL 2018/2019 events that were awarded permits are as follows:

– HIC PRO (QS) – Sunset Beach – Oct. 27 – Nov. 9, 2018
– HAWAIIAN PRO (QS) – Haleiwa – Nov. 12-24, 2018
– VANS WORLD CUP OF SURFING (QS) – Sunset – Nov. 25 – Dec. 6, 2018
– BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS (CT) – Ehukai – Dec. 8-20, 2018
– SUNSET OPEN – Sunset Beach (QS) – Jan. 18-28, 2019
– VOLCOM PIPE PRO (QS) – Ehukai – Jan. 29 – Feb. 10, 2019

WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt had this to say in a press release:

“We are disappointed we will not be able to run the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters. However, we are pleased that the Mayor recognizes that fundamental changes are required to the permit process that will benefit Hawaiian surfing, the surfers, the community and other stakeholders. We will assist however we can during this process and once we understand the changes, we will be able to determine which events we can invest in bringing to Hawaii in winter 2019 and beyond. As previously stated, we would love to continue to bring our full array of events to Hawaii, but we need to be able to plan long term and receive the appropriate local support in order to help grow Hawaiian surfing in a sustainable way.”

It remains to be seen what will happen with this situation, but the “Super Bowl of Surfing” (as it has been referred to) appears that it may be on its last legs.

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