Dis­pute could can­cel surf events

The World Surf League wants the city to shift the dates of the Pipe Masters

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL & BUSINESS - By Michael Tsai mt­sai@starad­ver­tiser.com

The World Surf League is threat­en­ing to leave Hawaii off its 2019 sched­ule of events if the city does not grant its re­quest to change the date of one of its premier con­tests — pronto.

The Santa Mon­ica, Calif.,-based WSL is seek­ing to move the Bil­l­abong Pipe Masters from its tra­di­tional De­cem­ber stag­ing dates to a Jan­uary pe­riod the or­ga­ni­za­tion was al­ready seek­ing to re­serve for a dif­fer­ent event. The switch would take ef­fect dur­ing the 2019 sea­son, thus al­low­ing for the 2018 Bil­l­abong event ap­proved for Dec. 8-20 to go on as sched­uled.

WSL Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer So­phie Gold­schmidt, who de­scribed the switch as “an ad­min­is­tra­tive tech­ni­cal­ity,” said Satur­day that the full slate of WSL events in Hawaii could be can­celed next year un­less the is­sue is re­solved within the next few days.

Gold­schmidt ar­rived in Honolulu on Fri­day to try to per­suade city of­fi­cials to ap­prove the change. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Cald­well, how­ever, took is­sue with what he sees as the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s at­tempt to “usurp” the per­mit-ap­pli­ca­tion process and strong-arm the city into ac­ced­ing to its de­mands be­fore it has even se­cured the dates it re­quested. “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,” Cald­well said. “That’s not how we do busi­ness in Hawaii. That isn’t pono.”

For­merly the As­so­ci­a­tion of Surf­ing Pro­fes­sion­als, the WSL stages numer­ous surf­ing events in Hawaii, in­clud­ing the Cham­pi­onship Tour events, the Bil­l­abong Pipe Masters and Maui Women’s Pro; qual­i­fy­ing events in­clud­ing the Sun­set Open, Volcom Pipe Pro, Tur­tle Bay Pro, HIC Pro, Hawai­ian Pro and Vans World Cup; and var­i­ous big-wave, junior, long­board and spe­cialty meets. Gold­schmidt said the WSL is in the process of stream­lin­ing its events cal­en­dar to al­low for a bet­ter de­fined pro­fes­sional surf sea­son. The or­ga­ni­za­tion ap­plied to hold the Sun­set Open in Jan­uary 2019 but wants to use those dates in­stead for the Pipe Masters, mov­ing the Sun­set Open to the De­cem­ber 2019 hold­ing pe­riod it orig­i­nally re­quested for the other event.

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

She cited the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s long his­tory of stag­ing events in Hawaii and the di­rect eco­nomic ben­e­fits and pro­mo­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties the state has re­ceived as a re­sult of the on­go­ing re­la­tion­ship. Ac­cord­ing to Gold­schmidt, the WSL spends an es­ti­mated $7 mil­lion to stage and pro­mote events in Hawaii, and the events them­selves gen­er­ate about $20 mil­lion in eco­nomic im­pacts. Un­like cer­tain other high-pro­file sport­ing events in Hawaii, such as golf con­tests ad­min­is­tered by the PGA, the WSL does not re­ceive fund­ing from the state. “We love Hawaii and we’re very pas­sion­ate in our be­lief that Hawaii is one of the most im­por­tant surf lo­ca­tions in the world,” she said. “We’ve had a long-term com­mit­ment to com­ing here.”

That com­mit­ment could be in jeop­ardy, how­ever. Gold­schmidt, who suc­ceeded Paul Speaker as the head of the WSL in July, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion had been in con­tact with the city’s Depart­ment of Parks and Recre­ation re­gard­ing its ap­pli­ca­tion for event dates for more than a year and only last week was in­formed its re­quest to switch dates for the two events might not be ap­proved. “I’m con­cerned and I hope logic will pre­vail,” Gold­schmidt said. “If we can’t get these mi­nor ad­min­is­tra­tive changes made, we won’t be able to come back in 2019, and if that hap­pens the like­li­hood is that we won’t be able to re­turn for years.” Cald­well said Gold­schmidt’s ac­count of the ne­go­ti­a­tions left out sev­eral key points.

The WSL sub­mit­ted its re­quest to switch the dates in mid-De­cem­ber, well af­ter the Novem­ber dead­line to sub­mit changes to per­mit re­quests, ac­cord­ing to the mayor. Cald­well said he and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gab­bard re­ceived let­ters from the WSL on Jan. 28 ask­ing them to in­ter­vene on its be­half. That was fol­lowed by at­tempts to lobby Honolulu City Coun­cil mem­bers to do the same, he said.

“Then (on Fri­day) she came to my of­fice unan­nounced,” he said. “We met and we asked for more time to fol­low the process. I’m dis­ap­pointed that when they didn’t get what they wanted they then went to the press to put pres­sure on us.” Cald­well said the per­mit­ting process ex­ists to en­sure that high de­mand for ac­cess to nat­u­ral re­sources like North Shore surf spots, which gen­er­ate world-class con­di­tions for a brief win­dow each win­ter, is man­aged in a fair and eq­ui­table way. The WSL’s de­mand to have the date swap ap­proved this week im­prop­erly as­sumes it had al­ready se­cured the dates in ques­tion, when no such de­ci­sion has been made yet, he said. The city does not guar­an­tee per­mits or give pref­er­ence to re­turn­ing events, Cald­well said.

“I don’t feel we’ve been treated fairly,” said Gold­schmidt, who noted that no ra­tio­nale had been given for the city’s re­luc­tance to al­low the changes.

If we can’t get these mi­nor ad­min­is­tra­tive changes made, we won’t be able to come back in 2019, and if that hap­pens the like­li­hood is that we won’t be able to re­turn for years.” So­phie Gold­schmidt Chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, World Surf League ———


Mikey Wright tried to catch a bar­rel Satur­day at the Volcom Pipe Pro event at the Ban­zai Pipe­line off Ehukai Beach.

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