In a cruel twist of fate, Pipeline has become yet another pipe dream for bodyboarders.
A recent Facebook post has ignited the rumour mill with claims that there won’t be a bodyboarding event at Pipe in 2018.
And now, after talking to a handful of riders and figures closer to the situation, we can safely say that, yes, our chances of seeing a Pipe comp in the upcoming Hawaiian season is effectively zilch.
So what happened?
It wasn’t a lack of funding (shocking) or enthusiasm, but an issue with the annual application process. According to an anonymous source, the City (which is USA’s terminology for the Council) changed the way that people get permits. They went on to say that last year, the City decided to bring the application forward by a year but somehow forgot to tell the guys that organise the permit for the bodyboard event that the process had changed. So when they applied for the permit late last year for the Pipe comp in January 2017, they should have also been applying for the permit for the pipe comp in January 2018. Sounds like a pretty important change that you should probably let people know about, right?
“We are still working with the permits and processing but it is likely we may not receive the permit for 2018,” said APB CEO, Alex Leon. “We will have a final answer on Pipe in the next week or so but I’m not too confident at this stage of it going ahead unfortunately.”
There are long-standing rumours that competitive stand-up juggernaut, World Surf League, is changing up it’s event format in 2018 – specifically, that Pipe will no longer be the last event on the surfing tour in December, but the first event to kick off the new tour in February. For those of you playing at home, that’s the same time the bodyboarding event is normally held. Conspiracy theorists might deduce that the timing, combined with the recent permit changes by the City, seems a little coincidental that a highly-prized Pipe permit might fall out of the hands of bodyboarders. Of course, none of this is substantiated and should not be taken as gospel. For now, we're sticking to the facts – simply, that we've lost the permit for 2018.
So, what can be done? Well, one way of getting the event back for next year is to saddle up with someone who scored one of the permits. Allegedly, there has already been an attempt to combine with another permit holder of a stand-up surfing event (say, a both bodyboarding and bodysurfing specialty event, tacked to the end of the surfing competition), but the proposal was staunchly turned down.
There is some good news: we’re hearing rumours that the 2019 Pipe permit has been all but secured – but we won’t hold our breath until it’s official. These permits are in short supply, and once obtained by a new party, it would seem highly unlikely that they would simply hand it back because we asked nicely.
Of course, you could argue that the old Banzai ain’t what she used to be; that, maybe, we don’t even need Pipeline on the tour schedule anymore. Just look at the myriad waves on the current world tour that are perfect for bodyboarding (the recent, jaw-dropping El Fronton comp is testament to the fact that our tour isn’t really lacking big, heavy waves of consequence). Perhaps Pipeline isn’t the mecca it once was – the all-important rite-of-passage to securing sponsorship and some time in the spotlight. These days, we’re more likely to discover a fresh hopeful through our Instagram feed (what that shift says about the future of our sport is an entirely different exhausting conversation).
But there’s no denying the influence Pipeline and the North Shore holds across all varieties of surfing. Especially in competition. It’s Tamega’s world title death roll; PLC’s ballsy arrival on the scene; a young Andre Botha’s crowning; Damian King’s back-to-back titles. It is Mike Stewart, Kainoa McGee, Jeff Hubbard. It would be a real shame to lose an event that means so much to so many people, both in Hawaii and around the world, because of a simple rule change.