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Who's Right? WSL and Honolulu present permit arguments



Industry Updates

UPDATE: Hear from both sides on the matter WSL and Honolulu each give their take

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 6 February, 2018 - The World Tour's Hawaii events are in jeopordy as the World Surf League and Honolulu officials argue over event dates and permits. WSL Chief Executive Officer Sophie Goldschmidt has stated that the full slate of events in Hawaii could be canceled if Pipe permitting isn't secured. Honolulu Mayor says the city's process regarding this matter is about fairness, not money.

The conflict started when the WSL requested moving the Billabong Pipe Masters from December to January to score better surf. In return Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell said this plan was a no-go. He pointed out that the WSL would be bumping out event organizers who've already reserved that time-space and that the WSL had missed permit request deadlines. There was also some colorful language about "usurping" the process and using strongarm tactics (Full article here).

To address the ongoing North Shore permitting issues the Los Angeles-based sports group sent out a press release presenting their side of the situation, below. Mayor Kirk Caldwell submitted via press release the city's side of the story.

WSL Statement:

The World Surf League (WSL) continues to work with the Honolulu city authorities to try and ensure the iconic North Shore Championship Tour events remain on the schedule throughout the 2019 calendar.

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. This was first raised almost a year ago, WSL have been in regular contact with all the relevant Hawaiian authorities since then, taking their advice at every turn, so are surprised and concerned at this uncertainty. WSL most recently asked to discuss a mutually beneficial solution with the decision makers a week ago, and are still hopeful of gaining an appointment to find an amicable solution.

"Hawaii is such important part of surf culture and the history of this sport, we love coming here," Sophie Goldschmidt, WSL CEO, said. "Having canvassed widely, we firmly believe the broader changes we're implementing are for the benefit of all including Hawaii. We're hopeful that Hawaii CT events remain on the schedule, the permit is granted, and it continues to host the world's best surfing. Top tier pro surfing brings an enormous benefit to Hawaii's surfers, as well as the State both economically, in terms of employment, exposure for tourism and much more. We really hope this can continue.''

"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," Kelly Slater, 11x WSL Champion, said. "A big part of that long tradition is pro surfing's premier events being held on the North Shore. 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. 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."

"As a surfer from Hawaii, it would be really upsetting if the City doesn't support professional surfing, however I am confident this will be resolved soon," Billy Kemper, BWT and QS competitor, said. "It is an entirely logical request, it's the same amount of time in terms of permits and the same dates, so it shouldn't be an issue. In fact, being able to start and finish the season, first with the Pipe Masters and then with the Triple Crown, seems like it would be a great thing for Hawaii and gives more Hawaiian surfers a chance to compete.''

"Having these events, with the world's best surfers, is so important for surfers from Hawaii, culturally, for the community and economically," Sunny Garcia, 2000 WSL Champion and six-time Triple Crown of Surfing winner, said. "It keeps Hawaii on the map as the Surfing Mecca, and is much loved and respected by the athletes. The community loves these events, and all Hawaiian surfers want the advantage of performing in their own back yard, in front of their home crowd."

Former State Senator, World Champion and Founder of the Triple Crown events Fred Hemmings reiterated, "Surfing is Hawaii's gift to the world and is at the very essence of the marketing of Hawaii in the visitor industry. Hawaii's Triple Crown of Surfing are marquee events on the WSL Pro Tour. I am urging state of Hawaii and Honolulu county leaders to provide the assistance necessary to keep the now close to 50- year history of world-class Triple Crown events home in Hawaii." 


Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell's statement:

The current permitting rules for surfing contests have been in place for years and were developed to balance the interests of the community with organizations that hold competitions. The process to secure permits at our beach parks is well known to all stakeholders, including officials with the World Surf League. The mayor 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, especially those applicants who are applying for the same location and time period as the WSL.

Swapping the Volcom Pipe Pro for the Billabong Pipe Masters for the January 29 through February 10 (2019) waiting period, as the WSL is demanding, would constitute a major change in the scope and type of event that would be held, even before the 2018-19 permits have been awarded. This would place other applicants at a disadvantage and be extremely unfair. 

WSL missed the November 9 deadline to amend its permit applications and 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. They have also intimated that they may not return in the next three years if their request is not granted.

The city's decision regarding this matter is about fairness, not money. If the changes WSL is requesting are indeed minor as the company claims, than the drastic action that is being threatened should not be taken. The city appreciates the contributions of WSL and hopes it will not jeopardize the relationship with Hawai‘i based on what it says are minor changes. WSL is free to incorporate its proposed changes for the 2019/2020 season during the next permit application period, and we encourage them to do so. 



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