Mad Mike is known to wreak havoc any time a CT wildcard is sent his way. Imagine how much damage he'd inflict at the P-Pass Masters! (Shield)

The WSL Should Move The 2019 Pipe Masters To P-Pass


When news broke that the 2019 Pipe Masters was a bust (due to the WSL and Honolulu City Council Permitting Peeps having a good old fashioned public donnybrook out in the media) fans and haters of pro surfing went into viral meltdown. The consensus, if you believe the majority of reporting as well as the interweb comment boards, is that the WSL have blown it – pumped up their own tyres to the point of exploding, thus costing themselves not only their marquee event in the surfing calendar but also the launch pad to their bold new look Championship Tour. But is that truly how things played out or are there other factors at play? We decided to get a chat thread happening with Nick Carroll, Sean Doherty and Mike Jennings, three of pro surfing’s most noted observers (and Vaughan Blakey who had to leave mid-way through due to his phone being cut off for not paying the bill) to see what they made of the events of the past few days and what they might mean for the WSL moving forward.

Vaughan Blakey: So lads, Pipe Masters 2019 is kaput! Initial gut feelings when you heard the news? I was devo but then I made some breakfast and forgot all about it, until later I got online and people are deadset freaking!

Nick Carroll: I thought, well somebody has really fucked this up. After talking to a bunch of people behind the scenes, I think it need never have happened. But also sense a third force at play here. Somebody wants to see the WSL fail, and it’s not obvious who.

Blakey: Holy Cow! That is a huge barb to bite on! No Pipe and a conspiracy to see the WSL fail! But why?

Carroll: I reckon this is the most embarrassing pro surfing moment since they added up the points wrong in SF

Blakey: Who’s to blame here Nick? Is it soley the WSL? Grand plans without looking into the back end details and the relationships?

Carroll: Well check the time line. July 2017, the 2019 permits are signed off. August, Sophie and Joe Carr etc.. start work at WSL. Sept, they start telling people about their new scheme. They didn’t know what they were applying for.

Seano Doherty: I think there’s a couple of things at work here. First up, you get a real sense this has been done on the fly. The WSL has had the wheel for five years now, and yet it feels this master plan being rolled out now has only coalesced recently, hence the permit screw up. That’s one aspect…

Carroll: I can tell ya this, the WSL were advised on how to do this discreetly by people who know how Hawaii works. They ignored that advice and charged in. I don’t get it. There’s people who work for WSL who’ve been through the mill in Hawaii. Why didn’t they call the shots? Seano I wonder if this is more evidence that WSL still isn’t sure what the hell its got itself into?

Seano: And I think there’s some chickens coming home to roost here from the WSL’s handling of the changes to Pipe. Few years back they played hardball to bring Pipe into line with every other tour event – a move that admittedly needed to happen – but I think the way it was done created some lingering bad vibes that have led to the situation we see now.

Blakey: So here’s a question then… what sort of fall out, if any, will we see from within the WSL? Will anyone be accountable? Or do they see this as the Hawaiian mayor’s fault?

Seano: As Nick said, this situation in the past would have been handled with some cautious diplomacy, the way it’s been handled since day dot. Just do the dance.

Carroll: If they see this as Honolulu’s fault, they’re kidding themselves. I don’t believe good operators see “fault”, they see problems and look for solutions. I do think they’ve lost the surfing public with this one though. They’re gonna need an epic 2018. Trouble is an epic 2018 will just pose the question, why do all the changes stuff.

Seano: The tone coming out of Santa Monica and the threat of pulling out of Hawaii doesn’t really give the impression they think they are the problem here. If they don’t fix this and Pipe doesn’t run, that’s when they’ll lose the public.

I’m back, I’m here.

Blakey: Chip in Jennings! This is awesome!

Jennings: Will they really lose the public though, reeeeaaally? Cause I think we’ll all watch it regardless. And so would most people who want to see Gabriel win, or John John win, or Julian win etc.

Carroll: Vaughan/Mike have they lost you over this? What about your mates etc?

Seano: The interesting aspect of all this for me is that in the past this would have been negotiated on the bike track on the North Shore, done the old way, a couple of quiet meetings, but this has all played out politically. Feels like whoever is lobbying against the WSL has beaten them at their own game.

Jennings: Yeah, and I find that super interesting because I found the tone in the Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s response really weird. There’s a line in there where he says (something along the lines) of… “I understand that you’re new at the WSL…” And I read that thinking, that’s not really relevant, and not really the issue here, right? But it feels as if that’s the issue in Hawaii, or in that office.

Seano: They got them where it hurts. City Hall. The permits are so strict there, so conditional, I just can’t believe a group as corporately regimented as the WSL didn’t see this coming and dotted their Is and crossed their Ts.

Jennings: It’s soooo surfing, haha.

Seano: They fully got pantsed.

Jennings: But why do they want to “pants” them? That’s what I find so hard to understand, the WSL fucked up, fine, but why doesn’t Hawaii want to work with them?

Carroll: Because Hawaii is a small town, and small towns hate being told what to do by rich strangers.

Seano: Age old beef. Didn’t end well for Cook.

Jennings: Hahahahaha

Carroll: Plus the permit issues are real. The system is 30 years old and 29 years out of date. If the mayor was seen to change the rules for the WSL he’d have been open to lawsuits from every other permit holder. That’s why when the WSL went all public on him, he had to slam the door on their fingers. The whole thing is a cock up. But maybe not for everyone. There’s a new question: who stands to gain from the WSL failing?

Jennings: Right right right. Far out. Because I again found that so funny, the “it would be unfair to the other applicants” thing, because in what world should the Pipe Masters be considered equally with any other event that’s filled in some forms? But that makes so much more sense, when it went public, they cut off their own solutions. Gotcha. Has there ever been a CT, since the IPS days year without an event at Pipe?
That’s not a sentence.

Seano: I think while this has played out in Hawaii, there’s global undercurrents.

Jennings: Take two, will this be the first World Title decided (point deductions aside) without an event at Pipe?

Carroll: 1983 winter after Fred Hemmings wouldn’t get the events sanctioned because of the ASP/IPS fall out.

Jennings: So it was a similar, new organization, not how we do things in Hawaii sorta thing? That’s amazing.

Carroll: 1983 was the best winter of surfing in my memory. None of the top seeds went. You could surf anywhere without crowds. The only fucked up thing that occurred was Dane Kealohas eventual eviction from the tour after winning Pipe.

Seano: The WSL is on a mad tear to buy up all corners of surfing… contests, big waves, wavepools, hell, even the lifestyle itself. They’re pushing hard and they probably expected something to push back. Hawaii being Hawaii, they pushed back first.

Carroll: Pipe played no real role in world title races for most of the 80s.

Seano: And hasn’t the tour been infinitely better since it has played a role.

Jennings: So here’s the thing I find interesting again, and you’ve written about this extensively Nick, about what’s the WSL’s move to become viable, to actually function. And they’re going for it. So if Hawaii is the roadblock, and Hawaii is too tough to work with to get these big changes happening and to make surfing work, can do it without Hawaii? Can the WSL be considered legitimate to us without Pipeline?

Seano: No.

Jennings: Hahah!

Carroll: Ha well I don’t see it. Fuck what other sport gives up it’s best event?

Jennings: The AFL Grand Final was played at Waverly one year, haha. But, to answer your question, perhaps a sport that runs at a loss.

Wow this kind of moment could be lost for the next generation of Hawaii kids all because of old grudges and a hurt ego of @kirk.caldwell Mayor of Honolulu who won’t talk to us but told the news we were strong arming him when we stopped by his office to ask for a meeting to try to come up with a solution to red tape affecting event permits. And for the record no deadlines were missed. Since he wouldn’t meet with us, we thought it made sense to stop by his office and ask for a meeting since he is our Mayor and it is his duty to look out for our best interests and advocate for us, but instead he is twisting the facts and telling Hawaii surfers and the surf community that he doesn’t want to help us. A lot of the facts being thrown around by the Mayor are very misleading and it’s a huge injustice that the man elected to protect the surfers and surf community won’t help us. Yet the matter at hand is that Hawaiian surfers and the surf industry are on the brink of losing all the biggest surf events in the world here in our back yard and the tourism that comes with it so it’s a huge loss for all of Hawaii and the surfing world for that matter. What’s really sad is to see all the comments coming from a lot of people in the surf community saying they are for the Hawaiians but are not able to put their money where the mouth is and will not be here to pick up slack should the WSL take their events elsewhere #BePartOfTheSolutionNotPartOfTheProblem #TalkIsCheap #HelpTheHawaiianSurfers

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Seano: You gotta walk through the fire at Pipe to get your title. They lose not only the crescendo, they lose the cultural nod that legitimises everything else they do.

Jennings: But you don’t. John John didn’t in 2016. And that’s ironic, because moving Pipe to CT opener actually guaranteed you did. Were you guys on board with the switch-up in the first place?

Seano: I disliked the idea thoroughly from the start. The boat trip idea is a great specialty event, but shouldn’t decide the title.

Carroll: The WSL will bid for Pipe in 2020 in their preferred time slot and probably get it. (They still have a permit for Pipe in Dec 2019.) Thing is they gotta be solvent by then. I thought their switch up plan could work well but had serious problems but not of Pipe magnitude.

Jennings: That’s kind of why this issue feels so dramatic too, right? They’re on borrowed time. Had this fuck up occurred and everything was peachy, I feel like they’d go, “Well, cool, will just push these big CT changes back a year.” But it feels like it’s a, “We need to make it work right now, and this plan is our way of doing it.”

Carroll: Yeah well you get that when you’ve just thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at something and it still won’t do what you want

Jennings: Hahahahaha

Carroll: Surfing! Honestly.

Seano: It all Contributes to a sense that these changes haven’t been thought through adequately.

Jennings: Right right right. Or were thought through in a boardroom on another continent, and not with the traditional cultural stakeholders involved. Not like, come with us, we’re going to make this great together. The other thing I find interesting here is that this Pipe issue is so big it’s blocking the view of so many other things. They were going to drop Honolua Bay from the women’s CT? And replace it with one at Sunset? Did you guys know about that one? And when are we going to find out about how the QS is going to work, how many people can qualify, how many surfers will be on the 2019 CT? There’s so much mystery still floating around.

Seano: Honolua has been on borrowed time for a while now.

Jennings: Really?! I love that event.

Carroll: Oh yeah! And add an extra comp day at Sunset to achieve it. And drop the Sunset Pro Junior in Jan for another women’s event. That would have riled up a lot of the nth shore crew, they love that jr event. And the Pool. Won’t somebody remember the Pool

Jennings: Hahahaha. Was it the Junior, or the QS1000?

Carroll: The Junior part of it

Jennings: Ahhh

Seano: The pool works and the pool brings the people with it only if you pay respect to waves like Pipe. They hold each other in orbit.

Carroll: Exactly.

Jennings: So the WSL is going to open 2019 with a wave that isn’t Pipeline. Where do you think it should be?

Carroll: P-pass

Jennings: Phwooooooaaaaar

Seano: Seconded.

Carroll: It’s the best right in the world. There’s nothing you can’t do on that thing. Plus at 10′ it is fucking heavy

Jennings: It would be sooooo good.

Carroll: Logistics would be hell but no worse than Teahupo’o.

Jennings: So that’s where you want it, what about what you actually think they’ll do?

Carroll: Portugal. Feb Supertubes is v good. Plus the Govt pays.

Seano: Newport Peak

Jennings: Hahaha.

Seano: Are you on the permit committee Nick?

Carroll: Yeah well they way it was this weekend, 6′ side chopped and full of bluebottles, they can fucking have it free.

Jennings: My final thought, is that I just hope we don’t put an asterix on Filipe Toledo’s name when he becomes the 2019 World Champion. Cause it’s not his fault.

Carroll: I won’t asterisk him! He’s fantastic. In fact I want him to win. I may even bet on him.

Vaughan Blakey