Permit Me (9/03)
Here is the original text from an article written for Mike Latronic's Board Stories magazine. I'm always a bit leery of doing interviews since it is easy to misconstrue what others are saying. And even if you get it right, sometimes people can still get angry.
By Neal Miyake
On August 25, the City and County of Honolulu once again met with contest directors/promoters and other interested parties to facilitate resolving the North Shore surf contest scheduling, specifically for late season Pipeline. Unfortunately, no resolution has been reached to date.
Last winter season, conflicts in the schedule and noncompliance with City's Department of Parks and Recreation guidelines prompted a grassroots effort by the Let's Surf Coalition to ensure that rules were followed. After the Parks Department resolved last year's schedule, Manny Menendez, director of the City's Office of Economic Development, was assigned by Mayor Jeremy Harris to help create a workable schedule for the upcoming winter.
Although there are signs that headway is being made, there is still a long way to go before a workable schedule is agreed upon. For the unscheduled events, this delay has a direct negative impact on sponsorship, media coverage, international competitors and tourism. If no compromise is found, formal conflict resolution may be the only option. Future methods of resolution already being thrown on the table include a lottery or even a bid system.
Things are in such a state of flux that a breakthrough could be made at any time. Board Stories talked with the key players to get their positions on the matter.
Manny Menendez: director of the City's Office of Economic Development.
After last winter's permit issue, Menendez was assigned by Mayor Harris to help facilitate resolution of the problem. He has been working with the contest directors and promoters and is encouraged that everyone is starting to collaborate.
"The goal of the city is to make Honolulu be known as the wave sports capital of the world, and plan to give it the attention and focus it deserves," said Menendez. "We are currently creating a blue ribbon panel to take rules established back in 1991 and recommend changes for the City to implement."
Menendez acknowledged that some events have higher value to the community, not necessarily monetary, than others. "We recognize that all contests are not the same and are looking for an evaluation criterion that makes sense."
However, Menendez cautioned that the real issue is the future. "If a new promoter came in, he could possibly dominate the scene with a better plan. And we're not entirely closed to having one slot be available for bid in the future."
Bob Thomas: Contest Promoter, World Bodyboard Championship at Pipeline.
Bob has the most experience with the "alternative" events, having run men's and women's bodyboarding events along with the bodysurfing event for many years. He has proposed a compromise schedule for late-season Pipeline suggesting 10-day waiting/10-day cooling off periods and is currently working to get buy-in from the other directors.
Regarding other wave riding disciplines, Bob opined, "Contests should be representative of the day-to-day usage of the spot. In that capacity, bodyboarders represent a large percentage of the actual usage. It should not be only about money."
Eddie Rothman: Contest Director, Backdoor Shootout.
Eddie has not hidden his frustration about the scheduling process and challenged how some other surfing events have gotten funding.
Eddie contended, "The Shootout has more local surfers than other events and we're taking care of the locals." He admitted, "Bodyboarders do deserve to run contests at Pipeline, but the surfing events should go first, then the bodyboarding and bodysurfing. That would help ease lineup congestion and separate the groups a little more."
Reid Inouye: Contest promoter, Hansen's Energy Pro
Reid hopes to get 12 days of waiting period to maximize opportunity for better waves and making for better television and photos, both nationally and internationally.
"The schedule can be worked out of everyone is positive and cooperative," said Reid. Regarding his event, "This is some of the most important coverage for local surfers, paving the way to their professional career. Surfers who compete in it are actually the best Pipe riders; not the touring pros."
Alan Lennard: Contest Director, Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic
A form of his bodysurfing event has been run (with a few years off) since 1973. Alan has worked with Xcel's Ed D'Ascoli and others to create a concept conflict resolution formula to help determine contest prioritization.
"There's been a lot of power plays to get the optimum surf windows," Alan observed. "Winter surf conditions fit a bell curve with the peak being around December/January. Also, a bodysurfer needs to have control of his own permit so that bodysurfing doesn't get relegated to inferior conditions."
Carol Philips: Contest Director, Women's Championship of Bodyboarding
An advocate for gender equity, Carol has pushed hard for women's bodyboarding at Pipeline.
"Women should be given some sort of equality for North Shore events," said Carol. "To push it into shoulder periods or lesser quality waves is unfair. Moreover, it should be just about the athletes; not a way for people to make money. We should try to develop the sports, but sometimes egos and money get in the way."
Randy Rarick: Executive Director, Triple Crown of Surfing
The much-vaunted Triple Crown of Surfing is arguably the marquee surfing event in the world and has the longevity, history and financial support to prove it. Although scheduling for his events are not an issue at this time, Randy is keenly interested since decisions made now could have a major impact on all future surfing events held in Hawaii.
"The Triple Crown events have proven to be valuable to sponsors, pro surfers and has created a strong economic market for the North Shore community," says Rarick. "As far as the other contests are concerned, they all deserve to be run. With a little bit of compromise, there could be resolution."
Wendell Aoki: President, Hawaii Amateur Surfing Association.
HASA traditionally has a contest at Ehukai Beach Park in April for amateur surfers.
"The amateur contests should not be compared with pro events as far as financial gain. The value is in supporting the local kids and the community."
Gil Riviere: Organizer, Let's Surf Coalition
Last year, the Let's Surf Coalition had a lot more attention due to their uncovering of the rule-breaking. This year, this is not an issue, so the organization is taking more of a backseat role.
"We just want to make sure that the public is represented in the matter," said Riviere. "Understand that we are not anti-contest-just trying to protect the amateur and local guys."
Peter Cole: Chairman, Surfrider Foundation, Oahu Chapter
Cole has been a tireless supporter of recreational surfing and environmental awareness among surfers.
Cole stated, "Surfrider supports the ideal that recreational surfing should have a higher priority than contest surfing. Public access is the key; limiting a surfspot only to contestants is akin to restricting public access. Higher precedence should be given to surf contests which have a higher number of unique competitors 'processed' per day of competition."
Rodney Kilborn: Promoter, 2002/2003 Tow-In World Cup at Peahi
Although Rodney is a surf promoter on Maui, the experiences he has had have direct ramifications to the North Shore scheduling issue. For the upcoming winter, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources enacted a proposed statute that allows ocean permits for "world class events" be subject to sealed bids and be opened up internationally (the local counties do beach permits; the state does ocean permits-contest directors need both). Because of this, Kilborn was outbid for usage of Peahi this winter, the spot he held the Tow-In World Cup for two straight years. These rules could someday carryover to the North Shore.
"This is 'bidding out the ocean,' which is unfair and just not Hawaiian," stated Kilborn. "The permitting process should be about safety and not money."
Most of the people interviewed are North Shore residents and are keenly aware of the positives (economic and business) and negatives (overcrowding and traffic) these contests bring to the community. Randy Rarick admitted that he gets frustrated when some other surfing event congests the North Shore traffic. "But the community expects the contests. I'm definitely not advocating more contests, but their benefits outweigh the inconvenience."
The City is planning another meeting, expected to convene in mid-October. Hopefully, the directors/promoters will have reached a compromise on their own by that time, one that all will be satisfied with.