The WSL has confirmed there will be no Pipe Masters for the 2019 season. After a two-week battle with the City of Honolulu, the WSL have relinquished the event for the entire 2019 season after permitting issues could not be resolved. Specifically, switching the 2019 dates of the Volcom Pipe Pro and the Billabong Pipe Masters.

The Pipe Masters event was pencilled in as the 2019 season opener. A leaked proposed event schedule saw Pipe play season opener and tour finish in Tahiti. The world title would have then been decided in a sudden death play-off in the Mentawai Islands. The revamped schedule would see the tour finish in September, and the QS kick off from September until December.

From the WSL's press release:

“Yesterday, the City and County of Honolulu Dept of Parks & Recreation announced preliminary permit approval for the 2018/2019 winter events calendar. While all of WSL's historic permits for the winter 2018/2019 have been granted, including the 2018 Billabong Pipe Masters, the WSL remains disappointed that the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters has not been granted. The WSL will pursue alternative options to open the season next year.”

With the WSL sticking to their revamped grand design and Hawaii off the table, it means somewhere else in the world will kick off the 2019 season. So, where in January produces world class waves?

Rumour is it could be ‘somewhere’ in the Caribbean. Perhaps Rip Curl will pony up and resurrect ‘The Search’ events that previously held a spot on the Tour. It would certainly help the WSL claw back some much-needed points with ‘core’ surf fans.

Former World Champion, and outspoken supporter of Hawaiian surfing, Sunny Garcia, weighed into the debate heavily on the ground and on social media. He believed if the WSL ‘took their events elsewhere’ it would jeopardise future generations of Hawaiian surfers. However, the WSL haven’t abandoned Hawaii completely despite the Pipe Masters being scratched from the CT calendar.

The press release continues: “WSL remains committed to a full-tiered scope of events ranging from Junior to QS and CT this coming winter. In the best interests of surfing, the community and all stakeholders, the WSL requires fundamental changes to the permit process in order to determine what its future plans will be from winter 2019/2020 onwards.” 

“Mayor Kirk Caldwell met yesterday with WSL at his offices, where positive discussions were held on the future of the permit process, as well as medium and long-term objectives for surfing in Hawaii. In his press conference yesterday, the Mayor acknowledged the need to overhaul the permit rules, to support competitive opportunities and nurture young, aspiring surfers to uphold surfing's place as the lifeblood of Hawaiian culture and community.”

WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said, "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 previously stated, we would love to continue to bring our full array of events to Hawaii, but we need to be able to plan long term and receive the appropriate local support in order to help grow Hawaiian surfing in a sustainable way."

Losing the Pipe Masters and adding a wave pool event in Lemoore is a pretty audacious move by the newly minted CEO of pro surfing. Especially when the issues surrounding the Pipe Masters permit could have been resolved by meeting the November 9th deadline to submit variances on the WSL’s permit application.

In failing to secure the Hawaiian event to the CT in 2019, Goldschmidt has unwittingly put an asterisk next to the name of the future World Champ. I mean, how can a title be taken seriously without featuring arguably surfing’s most famous event?