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A wave of rejoice flooded Hawaii’s surfing community yesterday, after the state officially sanctioned surfing as a high school sport – a first in our nation’s history. Prior to this, public school students could only compete in surf meets as members of a club, making sure not to use their school’s name. This important milestone now puts the ancient Polynesian pastime alongside longstanding American sports like football and baseball.
In 2004, the state recognized surfing as a sport, but liability, safety and funding issues caused wipe out after wipe out for those trying to push it forward. The new plan will provide a set of standard rules and regulations for participating schools before it launches in 2013. The state plans to support high school surfing through public-private partnerships similar to when canoe paddling became a sport nine years ago. The state also hopes to sanction bodyboarding and bodysurfing in the near future.
Many would agree that “it’s better late than never,” as posted on a website called Surf Tweeters. And some old-timers, like my dad, even joke that surfing has always been a high school sport, except back then, they called it “cutting class.”
Hawaii continues to be the surfing mecca of the world, drawing thousands of surfers and spectators to its islands every year – particularly during the Vans Triple Crown on Oahu’s North Shore. It couldn’t be more fitting that Hawaii is the first state to sanction surfing as a sport.
Youth from all parts of the world – not only Hawaii – excel in surfing thanks to programs like the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) and other organizations that help put together surfing contests around the world. Making surfing a high school sport gives more credibility to the sport and ultimately gives young surfers, or groms as they’re known in the surfing world, more opportunity to grow as athletes and to evolve as surfers. The state’s support and blessing will give them that extra push so that they may catch an even bigger wave of success in the future.
Hopefully this post further enlightens those planning to visit Hawaii. And they’ll recognize that the action going on below their hotel balconies is more than just a crowded beach and ocean. It’s an ancient sport continuing to leave its mark on the culture as it evolves and takes Hawaii’s future generations along for the ride. Schedule a surf lesson or two and experience first-hand this historic pastime. But if you want to learn more about surfing’s rich history, be sure to return to our blog in the coming weeks. We’ll take a look back at how surfing made its way to Hawaii and share a few ancient moolelo (stories or legends) that are unique to several surfing spots found in the Islands.
Photo Credit: Ariel Navares