Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Bodyboarders lined up in front of Honolulu Hale yesterday, protesting the city's refusing a permit for the World Bodyboard Championships at Pipeline, which was to have been in January. The permit went to the Backdoor Shootout surfing contest.

Bodyboarders fight
to save championships

By Craig Gima

They would have rather been in the water barreling through tubes and catching air.

But 11-time world champion bodyboarder Mike Stewart, Kauai-born bodyboarder Jeff Hubbard, former women's champion Karla Costa-Taylor and about 15 supporters spent yesterday afternoon on the sidewalk in front of Honolulu Hale in an apparently unsuccessful effort to save the men's and women's world championship bodyboarding tournaments at the Banzai Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore.

Bob Thomas, the organizer of the men's World Bodyboard Championship, said the contest has been held on the North Shore for 20 years, but this year the city did not grant him a permit to hold what he said is the biggest bodyboarding competition in the world.

"Pipeline is one of the extreme waves," Costa-Taylor said. "Being at the pipeline is the best wave we have to show our sport, how radical it is with big barrels and air maneuvers."

Thomas said the city gave the Jan. 6-17 holding period that the men's bodyboarding championship used to have to the Backdoor Shootout surfing tournament. He said the Backdoor Shootout is a relatively new contest and one of three surfing competitions scheduled in January.

"We think it's unfair that they add stand-up surfing and drop bodyboarding," Thomas said. "Just because we surf prone does not mean we will take this lying down."

Carol Philips, who organizes the women's bodyboarding championship normally held in late January and early February, said she has not received a permit for her event either.

"All I ask is that we're treated equally," she said.

Mayor Jeremy Harris issued a press release last night saying that while he was displeased with the process used to award dates for the surfing and bodyboarding contests, it would not be appropriate to change the schedule. The mayor said the city will begin drafting new rules and regulations for future contests. But that apparently will be too late for this year's bodyboarding championships.

Thomas and Philips said the world championships are the only professional bodyboarding competitions held on the North Shore during the winter and are the most prestigious events in the sport.

"It's beyond what Wimbledon is to tennis," Stewart said.

Hubbard added: "It's any bodyboarder's main goal -- to win a pipe contest. The sport was invented here. Hawaiians used to paipo board."

The bodyboarding-vs.-surfing problem appears to be part of a larger issue of whether there are just too many surf contests.

"Last year, the city caved in to everybody," said Guy Riviere of the Let's Surf Coalition. "Everybody got their permits, and who got the short end of the deal? The public."

The coalition has threatened to file a lawsuit if the city does not follow its guidelines on surfing contests.

Riviere said too many surf contests means recreational surfers are being shut out of the limited number of good surfing days at the best spots during the winter season. "All we're trying to be is fair," he said. "It's not about shutting anybody down; it's just about preserving something. We want a balance."

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