Surfing Now High School Sport

School students will be getting wet under a new plan being developed by the Hawaii State Board and Department of Education (DOE), Governor Neil Abercrombie and professional surfer Carissa Moore. Despite the 2004 approval by the Board of Education establishing surfing as an official school sport, surfing never took off in the schools. But this year school officials hope to incorporate the water sport into school athletics with help from local officials, surfing organizations and the community.

“Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing,” says Abercrombie. “From Duke Kahanamoku to the thousands of residents and visitors who surf both recreationally and competitively, the sport is rooted in our culture and way of life. Bringing surfing to our students is another step in our collective goal to transform public education and provide our children with rich and diverse educational opportunities.”

The goal is to have students in surf breaks by spring 2013. The safety of the surfers, funding and getting students to share the waves with everyone else are just some of the challenges the initiative faces.
Raymond Fujino, Acting Educational Specialist says, “Budget reductions in the past several years have been a major challenge, as well as drafting necessary safety guidelines. The Department will finalize regulations and look for outside funding sources. Guidelines and regulations are done at the club level. The same guidelines and regulations would be adopted for interscholastic surfing.” Fujino adds that surfing will not impact other school sports.

Interscholastic surfing has a lot of support from parents and students, and the DOE intends to support the sport with outside funding sources and bring in community partners and city officials to ensure that surf breaks are shared equitably and safely. But Keith Amemiya, a former executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association who now sits on the Board of Education, supports surfing for another reason: student development.

“Surfing is a unique sport that often attracts athletes that may not necessarily be interested in more traditional sports such as football, basketball, baseball, and soccer,” Amemiya says. “Therefore, we’re confident that surfing will increase athletics participation numbers. In our view, the more students that engage in athletics and other after school activities, the higher our student achievement rates will become.”

Fujino says the school athletic directors will have the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of interscholastic surfing at the school level. He says the biggest funding issues are interisland travel expenses for outer island students to participate in state competitions.

“Each neighbor island would host its own meets,” Fujino says. “Budgets become a challenge when there is a state tournament requiring the leagues to travel to the state tournament location but we are hopeful that with partnerships and community support the department will be able to minimize this challenge.”

During this summer’s surf circuits Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, 18, became the youngest surfer ever to win a professional surfing world title. She says surfing taught her perseverance, time management and organizational skills.