The vexed issue of contest permits and a community chasing a little breathing space…
The heart of the matter is relatively simple to grasp. In the late 70’s, and again in the early 90’s, the North Shore community fought for regulations that would minimise the impact that the competitive season has on a tiny community with a startlingly primitive infrastructure.
The regulations are clear, not particularly onerous, and the WSL has decided that they don’t need to follow them.
Recent attempts have been made to amend the present regulations, inserting language which more or less de-fangs the community’s past efforts to limit the impact of contests. In the proposed amended regulations language exists which allows for exemptions to some requirements for contests on the North Shore, exemptions which would allow for man-on-man heats and define contest days in eight-hour increments.
According to the amended regulations, and provided they received the exemptions (which I think we can safely assume would be the case), the WSL would be in total compliance this year.
However, the aforementioned amended regulations have repeatedly failed to be approved, as confirmed by John Blewett of the Honolulu department of Parks and Recreation:
“There’s new ones that have gone out for public comment three times, (but) the old ones are still in effect.”
An interesting development, considering a statement from Dave Prodan, ASP VP of communictaions:
“All ASP events are conducted in compliance with state and local regulations with the appropriate permits obtained, which includes all events in Hawaii and on the North Shore. For reference, we’ve been running man-on-man heats at Pipe consecutively since 2008.”
Rather than demonstrating compliance, Mr. Prodan indicates that the ASP (now WSL) has instead repeatedly violated the existing regulations. There is no situation in the current system that allows for man on man heats. No exemptions, no special circumstances, only special treatment or, at least, a failure to enforce regulations.
(Mr Prodan failed to respond to follow up requests for clarification regarding any potential exemptions.)
Furthermore, the current rules do not allow for running half days and banking the remaining hours to be used later, an approach the WSL obviously plans to use, considering Kieren Perrow’s statements regarding having “one and a half days left” to run the contest.
Of course, there’s no real reason why enforcement should be necessary.
“There are so many contests on the North Shore,” says Pancho Sullivan, “and they all follow the rules. Except for the ASP. And I don’t know why that is. The point of the rules is to make sure they run the contest as quickly as possible. If they’re running four-man heats there’s no reason they couldn’t finish it the first day, or take two at most.”
As a fan of surfing, it may be difficult to understand the impact that large scale contests have on the area. Because everyone loves the Pipe Masters. And rightly so. It’s nearly always one of the best contests of the year and it’s in a venue that provides a unique opportunity to be closer to the action than almost any equivalently heavy and spectacular spot.
But you need to remember, not everyone on the North Shore is a surfer, and even though the majority of spectators and athletes have nothing else to do, people still need to live. They need to go to work, they need to buy food. In order to accomplish almost any of the requirements of actually surviving in a remote community on an even more remote archipelago they need to be able to leave. Something which is a hellish undertaking when your only road in or out is packed to the proverbial rafters with rubbernecking rental cars.
The only defense the WSL, or their supporters, are able to trot out is regarding the economic benefits of allowing unfettered exploitation of the area’s resources.
“The ASP plays by their own rules,” says Alan Lennard, the man responsible for running the North Shore Bodysurfing Classic, the first contest ever run at Pipeline. “But Randy Rarick is on the North Shore Chamber of Commerce…”
Of course, economic benefits are difficult to prove or disprove. Does the money brought into the community offset the amount of man hours wasted by the difficulty of leaving or entering the area during the event?
Do the supposed benefits take into account the damage done to the primitive and poorly maintained infrastructure, one designed to support a tiny bedroom community, by such a huge influx of visitors? And let’s not ignore the fact that the WSL is a for-profit company run by non-surfers. The laws of capitalist enterprise state that their ultimate goal is to suck as much profit from the event as possible, only contributing the bare minimum to keep outrage at bay,
The WSL is conducting itself like a rude house guest; tracking mud across your carpet, eating all the food in your fridge, leaving dirty dishes to rot in the sink, being kept up half the night listening to him bang some rotten slag on your couch only to drop a fifty on your kitchen table and peace out with a nonchalant, “See you next year.”
And when he calls up the following year you say, “Hey man, you kind of wore out your welcome last time, maybe you should find somewhere else to stay.”
“What? C’mon, I gave you fifty bucks.”
“Yeah, that doesn’t go very far. Sorry.”
“Well, I talked to your landlord and he said it was okay and gave me a set of keys. So I’ll be there next week.”
“Fuck… well, at least be more considerate this time.”
“Nope, I’m gonna do what I want. And you can go fuck yourself.”
No one wants the Pipe Masters gone, they just want the organizers to follow the rules.
Unfortunately, this will only happen if they take it upon themselves to do so. The nature of contest permitting on Oahu means that, even should the permit applicant be denied for violations, the permit follows the person, not the contest. So you can rest assured that it will run in the foreseeable future, though potentially with a different name on the permit.