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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Thu, 8 February 2018

What lies behind the spat between WSL and Honolulu authorities that has nothing to gain and everything to lose, including an end to the WSL on the North Shore. Spike ponders.

sophie-goldschmidt-CEO-WSLThere has been wailing and gnashing of teeth about the spat between the WSL and the Honolulu authorities that stems from a late permit application that has resulted in talks of the WSL pulling out of Hawaii.

Some say it's a rookie error by newish WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt (right). By the way, remember Bobby Martinez's rant not wanting to be part of "No fucking tennis tour". Ironically, that came in 2011, one year after Goldschimdt, who is British by the way, brokered a US$88m Sony Ericsson deal for the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) - the largest in women's sports history. Bobby's words were vaguely prophetic.

Others say it's a silly spat due to petty instransigence by the local authorities. The local authorities say it's only fair to show no fear or favour to the big stick. The World Surf League, who was late in its permit applications, says it might have to pull out of Hawaii. That's a bit dramatic if we're to believe Goldschmidt's assertion that its a minor administrative change that has been responded too unfairly.

Everyone has something to say. But what really lies behind this storm in a tea cup? Judging by what local Da Hui board member Mahina Chillingworth says, one has the sense that it's about the old issue "haole imperialism" in retreaded guise. (pssst. don't. mention. the ... )

"We're happy that the mayor is sticking to the rules and not bending because of financial power. We know of other contest directors who have dropped off their permit application like a minute after the deadline and were flat out denied," she said.

Now consider that The Hui O He‘e Nalu was formed in 1976 to combat the burgeoning and somewhat brash 'new money' professional surfing industry and the way it swaggered into town to dominate the surf. We all know the story of Bustin' Down the Door and the spoiled, brash manner in which the 'Bronzed Aussies' and other 'colonisers' just took over when they came to Hawaii, and bragged about it when they got home.

The Hui O He‘e Nalu has this mission statement on their website : To preserve and conserve Hawaii's land, ocean and culture for future generations from exploitation and over commercialization. Who can forget the fearsome Eddie Rothman and his rampage of wrath in 1977, felt acutely by Rabbit Bartholomew, and less so by another not-quite-as-cocky youngster Sean Tomson, and others.

To remind you of the original context, the fight over the po‘ina nalu (surf zone) began in the early 1900s after the Hawaii kingdom was overthrown. The exclusionist nature of the invaders was already expressed by the Outrigger Canoe Club a Haoles in Waikiki. Yes, a whites-only surfing club.


ENFORCER: Screengrab of Eddie Rothman from the Da Hui website. Read caption.

Duke Kahanamoku_c1912

Hawaiians, led by Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku (right, pictured in 1912), united under the Hui Nalu Canoe Club in 1908 to compete openly against the haoles, and to regain their authority in the surf. Read the fascinating book by Isaiah Helekunihi Walker called Waves of Resistance: Surfing and History in Twentieth-Century Hawaii.

This shit runs deep. It's all about an historical context of the relationship between outsiders with the cash and locals pushing back.

According to TV station Hawaii News Now, "one city councilman has called the decision a "black eye" for the state, and the league says it was initially told it could make the change." But Mayor Caldwell says "it's an issue of fairness".

"In a final decision in a letter sent to the WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt yesterday, Caldwell said he doesn’t have the authority to allow for any last-minute changes to the permitting process. He said it wouldn’t be fair to the other organizations that also apply to use North Shore beaches for surf contests."

"Caldwell is encouraging the WSL to consider implementing the changes they requested for the 2020 winter surf season. City officials say they're even willing to consider a multi-year deal so the league doesn't have to go through this process every year."

“Please know the city fully appreciates the economic spending the WSL brings to the islands, but as I’ve stated, this is an issue about fairness, not about money. You have stated that the changes are minor, and if this is truly the case, we are perplexed that you would jeopardize your relationship to Hawaii on a minor change. I sincerely hope the WSL will continue to hold events in Hawaii, the birthplace of the sport of surfing,” Caldwell wrote.

Banzai Pipeline

DUMPING GROUND: You don't mess with Pipeline. You don't mess with the locals. Photo Wiki

The sticking point is the Billabong Pipe Masters. The WSL wants to move it from the last even to the year in December to the first event of the next year, in January, when the Volcom Pipeline Pro runs.

"WSL officials claim the swap would involve no increase in competition length or the dates in which the contests are held, but would provide a greater opportunity for local surfers to qualify for the championship tour by moving the first event of the season to Hawaii."

However, the city says it's not that simple, with the Volcom event "completely different" with a much bigger "impact to the community".

WSL CEO Goldschmidt said earlier in the week that the league had two weeks at most to "resolve the dispute before they need to begin the process of moving the event somewhere else".

“Hawaii is very important to surfing. These changes are going to allow more opportunities for Hawaiian surfers and so it's really just very hard to understand. We're hopeful that we can find a solution and that we can continue to bring the best events to Hawaii where they deserve to be,” Goldschmidt said.

“We've been coming to Hawaii for decades hosting these events, covering all the costs ourselves. We've never gotten any investment from the local government,” Goldschmidt said.

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