There has been a storm brewing in Hawaii over the proposed changes to the 2019 World Championship Tour season. The WSL is still no closer to finding a resolution with the City of Honolulu over requested permit changes to the Pipe Masters for the 2018/2019 winter season.

A war of words between Honolulu Mayor, Kirk Caldwell and WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt has spilled over into mainstream news in Hawaii.

To provide some context, the WSL want to move the Pipe Masters from its traditional window in December to January instead. In theory, it’s an easy fix – swap out the Volcom Pipe Pro, which traditionally kicks off in late Jan’, for the Pipe Masters, which will in turn kick off the 2019 WCT season. A little administrative paperwork here and there, but hardly the headache currently being experienced by a lot of people in the world of professional surfing.

The temporary temple built in honour of what is arguably surfing's most famous event. WSL/Heff

According to the WSL, “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.” 

That line about the WSL implying they would ‘reluctantly begin exploring alternative solutions’ if their request to assign permits for their events has provoked the Mayor. He has accused the WSL of trying to ‘strong-arm the city into meeting its demands’.

Late, mid-heat drop on a Pipe screamer. WSL/Kirstin Scholtz

Honolulu Mayor, Kirk Caldwell responded with a statement saying, "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, then 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 based with Hawaii based on what it says are minor changes."

Now there are certainly economic impacts associated with this outcome. The WSL estimate they spend $7 million a year to stage and promote events in Hawaii, and say the events themselves generate about $20 million for the economy. If the WSL pull out of running events in Hawaii completely, there could be major repercussions.

Sunny Garcia, the 2000 ASP World Champion and six-time winner of the Triple Crown believes the future of Hawaiian surfers is at stake. He can’t understand why the Mayor is playing politics when there’s so much on the line for the sport and people of Hawaii.

A post shared by Sunny Garcia (@sunnygarcia) on

“Wow this kind of moment could be lost for the next generation of Hawaii kids all because of old grudges and a hurt ego of @kirk.caldwell Mayor of Honolulu who won’t talk to us but told the news we were strong- arming him when we stopped by his office to ask for a meeting to try to come up with a solution to red tape affecting event permits. And for the record no deadlines were missed. Since he wouldn’t meet with us, we thought it made sense to stop by his office and ask for a meeting since he is our Mayor and it is his duty to look out for our best interests and advocate for us, but instead he is twisting the facts and telling Hawaii surfers and the surf community that he doesn’t want to help us. A lot of the facts being thrown around by the Mayor are very misleading and it’s a huge injustice that the man elected to protect the surfers and surf community won’t help us. Yet the matter at hand is that Hawaiian surfers and the surf industry are on the brink of losing all the biggest surf events in the world here in our back yard and the tourism that comes with it so it’s a huge loss for all of Hawaii and the surfing world for that matter. What’s really sad is to see all the comments coming from a lot of people in the surf community saying they are for the Hawaiians but are not able to put their money where the mouth is and will not be here to pick up slack should the WSL take their events elsewhere.”

Former world champion and outspoken supporter of Hawaiian surfing, Sunny Garcia. WSL/Cestari

Kelly Slater, who the WSL need in their corner right now if they’re going to sway the Mayor, also stressed the importance of finding a resolution.

"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. 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."

Seven-times Pipe Masters champion,Kelly Slater free-falling at Pipe. His support is crucial to the WSL cause.

With permits still up in the air, and a tonne of bad press, the WSL will want to get this matter cleared up real soon. They have a 2019 season schedule to officially release and newly minted WSL CEO, Sophie Goldschmidt will be under scrutiny to ensure the Pipe Masters doesn’t fall off tour for good.

Would Pro surfing be the same without this view? WSL/Cestari