World Surf League and City of Honolulu in Dispute Over Contest Permits

It could threaten Championship Tour events on the North Shore.

The World Surf League (WSL) and the city of Honolulu are currently in a dispute over permits that has now become public. The WSL sent a press release out Monday morning with the subject line: “WSL Signals Concern Over Permitting Issues Jeopardizing Hawaiian CT Events.”

In it, the WSL states that they are currently working with the city of Honolulu to solidify the Championship Tour (CT) contests on the North Shore of Oahu that happen each winter. But they also voice their concern that the future of those events could be in jeopardy:

“In support of broader positive changes the WSL is instituting to the sport, the organization is requesting an accommodation for our January and December events. The permit requests would require an equal amount of days and the same dates to those originally applied for, meeting permit deadlines, and that the WSL has operated in for decades, simply changing minor details on the filing form. However, the City of Honolulu has yet to confirm the request, prompting the WSL to reluctantly begin exploring alternative solutions.”

The press release states that the issue was raised over a year ago and that the WSL is “surprised and concerned at this uncertainty.”

Essentially, the WSL wants to swap the positioning of two contests, the Billabong Pipe Masters and the Volcom Pipe Pro, while also moving the Maui Women's Pro to the North Shore to be run in December. Currently, the Billabong Pipe Masters is the final CT event of the schedule, and the Volcom Pipe Pro is the first major Qualifying Series (QS) event of each season.

By swapping those, the WSL hopes to continue to evolve their CT schedule -- this move would be starting off the CT season in 2019 in Hawaii at Pipeline instead of Snapper Rocks in Australia. This would continue changes the WSL has made to the CT schedule recently, like removing Lower Trestles and Fiji and adding an event at Kelly Slater’s wave pool.

The crown jewel of the CT and the North Shore: Pipeline. Photo: Courtesy of Kirstin Scholtz/WSL

Hawaii News Now reports the city of Honolulu has a slightly different view of the situation:

“According to Mayor Caldwell's spokesperson, WSL officials showed up at his office unannounced after missing a Nov. 9 deadline to amend their permit applications. Andrew Perreira says the mayor believes the WSL trying to strong-arm the city into meeting its demands before it has even secured the necessary permits, but that the city is ‘sticking to the rules.'”

World Champion in 2000 and Hawaiian Sunny Garcia magnified the crux of the issue from the surfer’s standpoint to Hawaii News Now:

“Personally I don't think it's a beef between the WSL and Honolulu City officials. I think it has more to do with us surfers because the people that stand to lose the most are surfers from Hawaii. Along with the tourism and businesses on the North Shore that enjoy participating in the contests and enjoy the people that come to watch the contest. This is a no-brainer for the mayor and city officials to do. We have an association that brings in so much money and so much opportunities for Hawaiian kids that I'm baffled that the mayor isn't helping us at all.”

Both sides have stated they want to work this out and are keeping lines of communication open.

Kelly Slater perhaps summed up the feud best in the WSL’s press release: “I’m hoping we don’t find ourselves in a situation where miscommunication or semantics around the permitting process drastically impacts the long history and tradition of Hawaii playing a crucial role in determining our champions.”

Stay tuned to ASN for more on this story as it develops.

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Lower Trestles Replaced on 2018 CT Schedule by WSL Surf Ranch Event