Nick Carroll: The WSL Is Still Planning a Pipe/Maui Kickoff this Hawaiian Winter, but How?

4 Sep 2020 1 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Soli Bailey, comp jersey on, at a little wave called Pipeline. Photo: WSL/Keoki

Soli Bailey, comp jersey on, at a little wave called Pipeline. Photo: WSL/Keoki

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

Hawaii's On! Maybe!

Back at the start of 2020, when it already seemed as if the World Surf League’s plans for the year might be shafted by Covid-19, CW’s very own Mikey Jennings had a simple yet brilliant idea.

WSL Island!

This scary concept involved shuttling the CT seeds off to some isolated yet crazy location for months, safe from the Covid, and unleashing them Survivor-style, in the finest surf imaginable.

It hasn’t happened, though fuck knows, all that footage from Kandui makes you wonder what might have been. Imagine that shit with the current CT roster loose on it. Honest, it could have been the best tour year in history.

But some version of Mikey’s mad dream may still be on the cards.

The World Surf League is still in boots and all on its plans for a Hawaii kickoff this winter, at Pipe and Honolua Bay.

That’s the upshot of conversations CW has been having with a range of sources behind the scenes in recent days. Said one: “We’re going to have world champions next year. Even if the world literally catches on fire.”

It’s also despite what seems like a phenomenally daunting range of challenges.

Pro sports are happening during COVID, sure. The PGA is running a successful US-only golf series. The NBA has pretty much taken over Disney World in Florida. Le Tour De France is scooting around the French Alps as we speak. The WSL has been talking with at least the first two about how they’re getting shit done.

But all these sports are occurring at enormous expense, in carefully constructed “bubbles”, designed to keep the athletes and staff totally separated from every other human on the planet.

How do you make a bubble that includes the Banzai Pipeline? The simple answer is, you can’t. It’s a public place, and there’s 60-100 people out any day it’s even breaking, much less good. The Bubble Boys wouldn’t even be allowed to paddle out. No warm-ups for you, Gabriel!


“OTHER SPORTS ARE FORGING FORWARD. WE HAVE TO FORGE FORWARD TOO." – PAT O'CONNELL


The bubble would have to be somewhere else — maybe the old Kuilima condos at Turtle Bay. The pros could practice for Pipe out on the reefs in the middle of the bay, waves so suss nobody else will be bothering with ‘em. It’d be like some horrible flashback to PT and Ian Cairns and the other Aussies in 1976.

Then there’s the surfers. It’s not 1976 any more; they’re used to doing what they want. Will they put up with being sequestered off the North Shore’s key zones, only showing up when the “bubble” moves in for a day of competition? Said our source: “I’m pretty sure if it was a choice between doing that and just saying ‘let’s call it all off for another year’, they’d do it.”

And while our sources tell us the WSL has encountered only goodwill from the authorities in Hawaii and in other CT locations, the pandemic’s unpredictability makes any kind of planning similarly unpredictable. Specially when you’re bringing people in from all over the world.

Asked to comment, WSL commissioner Pat O’Connell would only say that his team was doing all they can to make it happen — not just in Hawaii, but across their whole CT plan. “Other sports are forging forward. We have to forge forward too.

“We’ve looked across the whole spectrum of ways to do this.”

And the WSL Island concept? Taking the tour to the Moon? Have you thought about that as well? “100%.”

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