Permit Me Update: The Surf Contest Permit Debate Continues (1/21/04)
By Neal Miyake
Though the winter season is more than halfway over, the surf contest scheduling controversy endures. No consensus could be reached, so the City and County of Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation regained the burden of resolving the issue. "Parks" announced their schedule in November and both the Backdoor Shootout and the Women's Championship of Bodyboarding were initially denied permits, much to the chagrin of Eddie Rothman and Carol Philips.
Manny Menendez, director of the City's Office of Economic Development and the Mayor's assigned facilitator for this issue, could not satisfy all contest directors. Although he inevitably had to pass it back to "Parks," Menendez was encouraged that most parties were willing to work together. "For the first time," said Menendez, "everyone involved in the contests from lifeguards, to police officers to event directors was sitting around a table trying to resolve the scheduling dilemma." He added that everyone is working closely now, putting energies into a long-term solution for the future.
Eddie Rothman, contest director of the Backdoor Shootout, was understandably frustrated with the outcome (at least initially). "We help the community, (by) donating to schools and taking care of the local surfers, and then get denied," he said.
However, a recent alliance between Rothman and Alan Lennard of the Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic has breathed life back into this winter's Backdoor Shootout event. Lennard, who secured a three-day permit window, needs only one day to complete his bodysurfing contest. By pooling resources and working together, both contests are now on. Lennard will also be showcasing the talents of bodyboarding women in a special, invitation-only single exhibition heat.
For Carol Philips, contest director of the Women's Championship of Bodyboarding at Pipeline, her group was extremely disappointed by the outcome. Philips said that she was offered just a single date to have her event, rather than a traditional waiting period. "That one day could have no waves or maybe too big a swell," said Philips. "You can't run a championship surf contest that way."
Philips initially sought legal representation, but decided not to pursue it further. "There were only two women's surfing events on the North Shore this season, and none at Pipeline," said Philips, frustrated with perceived gender inequity. "But in the end, I just want to see it resolved fairly."
There is disagreement over what was and was not offered up to Philips during negotiations. In any case, Philips currently contends that the Women's Championship of Bodyboarding has recently secured a contest window of April 1-14, 2004, although it seems to conflict with the Hawaii Amateur Surfing Association (HASA) event at Ehukai in that same timeframe.
Gil Riviere of the Let's Surf Coalition has reiterated that his group will aggressively fight to ensure that the City follow its own rules, especially keeping to the maximum 16 contest days per year per surf spot.
As for Randy Rarick, executive director of the Triple Crown of Surfing and contest sage, he believes that all events could be accommodated, even within the current rules structure. "If everyone was willing to compromise a little," said Rarick, "we could make it work."
At press time, here is the 2003/2004 late winter season North Shore surf contest schedule: