Surf meet limits will stand
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer
HALE'IWA A long-simmering conflict over prime North Shore surf spots may have been resolved last night with a city agreement to abide by its rules when granting permits to surf contests.
Members of the Let's Surf Coalition and other surfers were told that the city has agreed to abide by rules that regulate surf contests at six North Shore beaches, including the most popular beach parks at Hale'iwa Ali'i Beach, Sunset and Pipeline ('Ehukai).
Gil Riviere, president of the coalition, made the announcement at a meeting at the Hale'iwa Surf Center. No city official was present at the meeting, but Riviere said he had spoken with city officials that day.
Riviere said the city will stick to the 16 days maximum for contests on a beach for the season and to a 10-day cooling-off period between contests. There will be no simultaneous events run at other beaches.
The coalition says the city broke these rules last year when assigning competition dates, displacing hundreds of recreational surfers when meets were running. The group had promised to file a lawsuit if the rules were broken again this year.
"To do it, they are going to basically compress some of the applications," Riviere said, adding that the city reduce holding periods, the time promoters have to run a meet. "To me that's an equitable compromise."
A crowd of 50 people applauded the announcement, but not everyone was happy.
Richard Robb, a supporter of the National Scholastic Surfing Association made up of Hawai'i student surfers, said he is skeptical of the coalition, which has the stated goal of ensuring that contest rules are in place and that the city adheres to them.
"I think there's an undercurrent of we don't like contests and we'd rather not have them," Robb said, adding that he would remain vigilant in tracking the organization's activities.
The rule changes were proposed by the city, Riviere said, and the coalition wants to be involved if any new rules are developed.
The issue has pitted recreational surfers against surf-meet promoters for three generations.
This year's schedule hasn't been released because of conflicting requests for the same date, city spokeswoman Carol Costa said yesterday afternoon.
She said she referred all questions to city Parks Department director Bill Balfour, who did not respond to several requests seeking comment about the surfers' claims that the city violated its own rules.
The Parks Department's Windward district manager, Wilfred Ho, said he is aware of the surfers' concerns.
"Let's look forward and see if things can work well for everybody this year," Costa said.
In the meantime the state has also proposed to develop rules for surf contests.
State Rep. Marcus Oshiro, who ushered through the last Legislature a resolution urging the formation of state rules for surf contests, said he will move forward to bring together the surfing community and city and state officials to develop satisfactory guidelines.
After what surfers said were repeated city violations of its own rules regarding surf meets last year, they went to the Legislature for relief, seeking legislation to resolve issues about the scheduling of surf meets, said Oshiro, D-40th (Wahiawa, Whitmore).
The complaints prompted a closer look by legislators, said Oshiro, a surfer.
Oshiro said the sport's growing popularity requires rules and the means to enforce them.
"I want to make sure that as we let out these permits that the public has some opportunity to enjoy the waves," he said.
The state Boating Division, which oversees ocean recreation activities, would work with the community to develop the rules. No meeting dates have been set.
Reach Eloise Aguiar at email@example.com or 234-5266.