The World Surf League officially stated last week that it would not be holding a Billabong Pipe Masters contest in 2019. This comes after many weeks of back-and-forth commentary and some discussion between the surf body and the County of Honolulu regarding permitting for next season’s Hawaii events. In the end, it seems like a very disappointing conclusion, but one that may not ultimately be as much of a change as it appears in this moment.
The WSL issued a statement Thursday, which included remarks from CEO Sophie Goldshmidt. She stated, “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 of now, all upcoming contests through the start of next season are properly permitted and tentatively scheduled to run. That includes all Triple Crown events for 2018, including the HIC Pro, Hawaiian Pro, World Cup of Surfing and Pipe Masters. The Sunset Open and Volcom Pipe Pro are then also permitted for next January and February.
The crux of this issue has been the WSL’s desire to switch the timing for the Pipe Masters and Pipe Pro events. The intent was to start the Championship Tour season with the Pipe Masters, rather than closing with it. So the organization had hoped to move the Pipe Masters into the dates set aside for the Pipe Pro, and vice versa. They were not attempting to change any dates or extend any waiting periods, but swap calendar positions for the two contests.
While it does seem like a fairly simple request, the permits had already been filed with the typical contest placement we’ve come to know. Honolulu’s issue has been that those changes cannot be made once the filing period has closed and it would not be fair to all other permit seekers to allow the change beyond the filing date. In a practical sense, as well, it does require different resources from the county to assist with the two events. The Pipe Masters is the much larger and more highly trafficked event, so it takes a larger effort from local departments.
But it sure does seem like those types of adjustments could be easily assigned over the next 11 months.
Despite the news that, as of now, there won’t be a Pipe Masters in 2019, it may not leave quite as large a void as it appears. If the WSL’s agenda moving forward is to have the Pipe Masters open the CT season, then it seems they will be seeking a permit to hold the contest at the start of 2020, once those dates are determined. That would mean that, yes, we wouldn’t have the contest in its typical December slot next season, but we would have it just a month or so later in January 2020.
If that is the ultimate goal and it is achieved without further incident, then in reality, this won’t be a huge ordeal. There will be that strange gap in the record books when looking at Pipe Masters champions as it jumps from 2018 to 2020, but those champions would only have been chaired up the beach 13 months apart from one another instead of 12 months.
So while this situation has probably somewhat temporarily hurt the relationship between the WSL and Honolulu, it shouldn’t be anything either side holds on to for long. It’s easy to put on blinders and consider a singular topic to be more important than it is, but events over the past week should maybe keep things in perspective. In the big picture, this is a minor detour from the status quo.
So let’s move on to the more immediate future. The waiting periods for a pair of QS 6,000 events open today in Newcastle, Australia (Monday, local time). The men’s Burton Automotive Pro will feature 13 Hawaii surfers — Imai Devault, Barron Mamiya, Seth Moniz, Torrey Meister, Makai McNamara, Kaito Kino, Finn McGill, Elijah Gates, Cody Young, Benji Brand, Mason Ho, Keanu Asing and Kiron Jabour.
The Grandstand Sports Clinic’s Women’s Pro has 12 Hawaii wahine, including Kauai’s Tatiana Weston-Webb, Malia Manuel, Brianna Cope and Bailey Nagy. Others from around the state competing will be Coco Ho, Alessa Quizon, Zoe McDougall, Summer Macedo, Brisa Hennessy, Gabriela Bryan, Leila Riccobuano and Savanna Stone.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.