Yet another Hawaiian event hits a snag.
Last year I wrote a story on the demise of The Eddie and what a shame it was that people couldn't sort their shit out.
It has happened again, and it seems, it has reached an irreversible position with the 2019 Billabong Pipeline Masters event, that won’t be happening.
Through a stroke of luck and some marketing nous I once found myself standing on the beach at Pipeline with a prizewinner by my side. He had won a prize from Billabong to go watch the Pipe Masters, and I went along to introduce him to the soon-to-be-world champ, and to guide him through the many nuances of North Shore living and surviving.
Nothing could have prepared either of us for real Pipeline. I had been to Hawaii before, but it was the year the Bede won the Pipe Masters by surfing three-foot right-handers at the edge of Backdoor that he was tapping onto the shore break. This year was different.
We knew it was going to be a huge day, in more ways than one. The sea was wild and unruly, 10 foot on the sets, west swell, set to grow. There was a world title hunt on the go, and on-form Dorian was still in the mix as a wild card, along with Slater. Billabong’s Von Zipper founder and event commentator GT was wearing a collared shirt and tie, a single fingerless leather glove, and a sailor’s hat like Alex Briley, the mincing seaman from The Village People. It was all too terrible.
We watched the day unfold transfixed from the Billabong house, and witnessed the Bong crew start preparing for one of their own becoming a world champion. It was an incredible treat and luxury for the two of us, and something that we will remember forever. No one, unfortunately, will be able to experience anything close to this in 2019, as there will be no Pipe event
The new WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt is the scapegoat in what has been officially declared as a monumental fuckup by all and sundry, as the mayor of Honolulu has denied the WSL the rights to run an event at Pipe at the beginning of 2019, the start to possibly the most important year of professional surfing ever.
We all know what happened. Here’s the brief summary – WSL decided to start the 2019-year tour at Pipeline, which means that they would finish the 2018-year at Pipe and start the next year at Pipe. It was just a recalibration. The Mayor didn't sign off the second application, and it was not a done deal. The event was canceled for 2019, and the WSL is now looking for an alternate spot for their opening event for the 2019 season, and it needs to be a cracker to come close to the drama of a Pipe start. All being well, the 2020 season will start with Pipe. Whether it has a sponsor or not by that stage remains to be seen, but let’s look a little closer to the cancellation that every one is bummed about.
A source close to the subject matter enlightened us with some facts.
Pipe only has a certain amount of days of competition available for permits, about two weeks worth of days, and these days are highly desirable and sought after. Much like J-Bay and other high quality waves, there is always a level of bun fighting when it comes to permits.
Some of the many criteria involved in application for a permit are the negative impact on the community and mitigation thereof, and the diversity of the events.
The WSL wanted to take the Volcom Pipe Pro dates in the beginning of 2019 for their opening Pip Masters event, and then move the Volcom WQS to their pre-existing Pipe Masters dates in December 2019.
The negative impact on the community – traffic, security, trash, crowd control, parking – are very different for the two events, with the Volcom event being way more low-key, as a QS 3,000 contest with the majority of contestants being local, and the amount of impact on the community minimal.
The Billabong Pipe Masters event has a larger footprint on the small Pipe community, and although totally controlled and efficiently regulated within all legislative requirements by the WSL, the knock-on effects of having back-to-back events of this magnitude would be considerable. It also would open up a can of whoop for the City/Parks department from other applicants who were not awarded any permits whatsoever despite fulfilling requirements of environment and diversity.
Which leads us on to the diversity subject.
What this means to the city, as I understand it, is that there needs to be a full diversity of events granted permission without prejudice – body boarders, SUPers, girls and boys, body surfing, long boarding, scholastic, Championship tour and Qualifying Series all want a go in the pristine waves of the North Shoe over winter, and they represent legitimate members of the community on many levels. In the eyes of the Parks Dept., all organisations should be allowed the privilege of a permit, or at least a fair shot at one.
Bearing in mind the negative impact, and the diversity conundrum, the mayor could not sign off on back-to-back Championship Tour events mainly as a result of their magnitude and lack of diversity, and the whole system and calendar year just needs a reset.
It’s just a reset.
It’s a massive disconsolation for all, but the WSL could not expect a straightforward entry to such sweeping changes for their 2019 WSL competitive pitch. It was always going to come with challenges, and it is unfortunate that Pipe is one of the casualties.
Bear this in mind. In 2013, the Billabong Pro J-Bay was canceled, much to the global and local surfers and fans disappointment. Two years later the WSL Big Wave Tour was given a refusal to hold the Dungeons Challenge in Cape Town, and the sport was looking dire in the country.
Now we have a massive QS 10,000 and beach festival in Ballito, and the Corona Open J-Bay will have the women competing this year alongside the men. In addition, the J-Bay Winterfest is now one of the biggest sports and cultural festivals in the country. The drama of the South African event cancellations and refusals was also just a reset.
Pipe has the potential to be the same for Hawaii.