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City invites comments on new surf meet rules

  • DENNIS ODA / 2017

    The high surf at Waimea Bay on the North Shore attracts many onlookers.

Proposed revisions to rules governing nearshore water events at city parks — anxiously awaited and debated in recent months by the North Shore community, surf meet organizers and the surfing public — were released today by the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation.

The proposal offers no sweeping changes while altering deadlines, procedures and time frames for the application process. A public hearing will be held July 3 at the Mission Memorial Building next to Honolulu Hale.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell ordered that the current rules in effect since 2015 be revisited following the World Surfing League’s February decision to cancel its December 2019 Pipe Masters contest after the parks department denied the organization’s request to swap dates with its January-scheduled Volcom Pipe Pro.

“The proposed changes to the rules for shore water events are the result of careful consideration and input from longtime representatives of the surf community,” Caldwell said in a statement. “Our goal is to improve the selection and permitting process in order to better serve competitive surfing, provide fair access to Oahu waters for our community and protect the surfing culture brought to the rest of the world by our first people, our Native Hawaiians.”

The number of permitted competition days on the North Shore — no more than 64 days per year — remain intact under the proposed new rules, as do requirements that no more than one surf meet be held along the North Shore on the same day. On average, about 14 surf meets are held there each year.

Also unchanged is a rule that requires competitions to be spaced at least 10 days apart to ensure “breathing space” and public access to the surf.

Criteria for rating applications in the event of scheduling conflicts have not changed, but a new provision states the mayor may appoint an advisory committee to assist the parks department in resolving scheduling issues.

An informal advisory committee has already been helping out. In February, Caldwell told the Star-Advertiser he had asked a group of experienced surfers, including Keone Downing, Brian Keaulana and Tony Moniz, about how best to form a committee to advise the city on improving the permitting process. Last month, city spokesman Andrew Pereira said senior surfers had been providing guidance on revising the current rules but he declined to name them.

Downing, Keaulana and Moniz and representatives of the world surfing league could not be reached for immediate comment today.

Also up for discussion are several other amendments and additions, as well as the deletion of the appeal process for permit denials. Instead of filing an appeal, the new rules provide applicants the opportunity to discuss their cases in person with parks staff.

Protection of the coastal environment will be enhanced by a new provision stating that a permit may be revoked due to severe erosion. Last winter, for example, when Sunset Beach saw a drastic erosion of sand and undermining of lifeguard facilities and part of the road, concerns were voiced that surf meet usage might exacerbate the problem.

In addition, events that organizers want to plan for consecutive years must now be applied for on a triennial, rather than the current annual, cycle. For the cycle that starts Sept. 1, 2019 and runs through Dec. 31, 2021, applications are due no later than the last business day of this September. Under the current schedule the due date was the last business day of July.

The new draft adds that applications for surf meets must now be made at least 90 days prior to the event date, and special considerations required for big-wave events have been further elucidated.

While contests will still be limited to eight hours per day, the events can now start earlier, at 8:30 a.m., and be allowed to run later at the discretion of the parks department director, so long as the extra time is deducted from another event day.

Last but not least, the proposed rules requires the permittee to pump portable toilets and park toilets.

The public hearing on the proposed changes will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. July 3 in the first-floor conference room of the Mission Memorial Building at 550 S. King St., next to Honolulu Hale.

Written testimony is due July 11 to City and County Department of Parks and Recreation, 1000 Uluohia St., Suite 309, Kapolei, HI 96707, where the rules can be viewed during business hours. A print copy of the old and new proposed rules may be obtained by mail by sending a written request plus a fee of $7.75.

A comparison of the newly proposed and old versions of Title 19, Chapter 4 of the Honolulu Administrative Rules Shore Water Events can be viewed along with the hearing notice at

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