Permit issues could jeopardize high-profile North Shore surf contest

The standoff between the City and County of Honolulu and the World Surf League continues.

At stake: the future of the Triple Crown of Surfing, which is long regarded as the pinnacle of the professional surfing world.

The WSL wants to hold its Billabong Pipe Masters event during the same time frame in January it previously requested for the Volcom Pipe Pro event.

The city says the WSL failed to submit changes to its August application by the Nov. 9 deadline, as required by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

WSL’s CEO, Sophie Goldschmidt, wrote to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell for help: “It is ironic that we should be in this situation at a time when the Hawaii Tourism Authority is so aggressively canvassing to attract high profile professional sporting events to the state, and when surfing is on the eve of its Olympic debut.”

In a written response to Goldschmidt, Caldwell wrote: “It is the applicant’s responsibility to be aware of deadlines and to make whatever changes are needed. In addition, the department must take into consideration that other applicants have applied for the same location and time period. All applications are reviewed and scored. It is unfair to hand-select WSL as the permit awardee prematurely, with no consideration to the other applicants, and to allow WSL to change the contents of the application, while the process is on-going.”

Georgette Deemer, deputy city managing director, echoed his sentiments Wednesday. “We certainly hope the WSL will stay in Hawaii for their events, but in this case, they’ve asked for the mayor to intervene in the process, and the mayor has no authority to go in and make an exception for one applicant when there are other competitors,” she said.

Deemer says it’s not just a matter of switching out the name of the event, because they are different kinds of events that draw different crowds and have different requirements and impacts on the community.

She also says it’s not the mayor’s decision, but rather a panel with in the parks department that’s responsible for reviewing all applications.

The WSL issued a statement on Friday, Feb. 9, that said:

“The WSL acknowledges the City of Honolulu’s decision, but we remain very disappointed by it. Our intention behind these proposed permitting changes is to improve competitive surfing globally, inclusive of the Hawaii surf community and its surfers. The WSL is a surfer-focused organization and our commitment to surfers of all levels, as well as our fans and the local communities around the world we partner with, is central to our mission. We have plans to continue to work with the Mayor’s Office on the status of our permits, but we must also explore all possible options for our schedule moving forward. We will share more information as soon as we’re able to.”

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