Seven years after the Hawaii Department of Education approved surfing as a high school sport, high schools students will be able to compete in school-sanctioned surfing contests.

The plan to treat surfing like football and other traditional sports was announced Monday in Waikiki by government and school officials.

Funding and other challenges kept surfing from becoming a full-fledged school sport.

Now, the DOE and Hawaii Board of Education will work to implement a plan to secure outside funding for the program and to share surf breaks “equitably and safely” with others, according to officials.

“Hopefully it will eventually be a sport in our private schools and culminate in a state championship in spring of 2013,” said BOE member Keith Amemiya, former executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association. “It’s a day that’s been a long time coming.”

Birthplace of Surfing

The announcement was made near the Duke Kahanamoku statue on Kalakaua Avenue — fitting, given that the surfing great is credited with spreading the sport’s popularity.

Amemiya said that surfing, widely considered to have originated in Hawaii, is a sport “near and dear to all of our hearts. It’s a native sport. It has many cultural values besides the sports value.”

Kathryn Matayoshi, DOE superintendant, said students will be required to maintain a 2.0 grade point average in order to be on school surf teams.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie welcomed the surfing plan.

“Surfing is actually one of the official sports, if you will, of the state of Hawaii, but we haven’t been able to put together the necessary protocols to get it under way in the schools until now,” he said. “By putting the DOE behind it, we are telling young people they have another avenue now — they have another venue to express themselves and commit themselves in terms of discipline to themselves and to their education.”

Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, who this summer became the youngest surfer ever to win a professional surfing title at age 18, was the star of the press conference.

She said surfing taught her the value of hard work, perseverance and time management.

“Riding a wave is so much like life,” she said.”You fall down over and over again, but you keep picking yourself back up and eventually you’ll ride one all the way to the beach. … This is really awesome.”

Private Funding

Amemiya said the program will cost about $150,000 to implement in its first year, and that about $50,000 has already been raised in private fundings. No DOE money will be used.

Abercrombie defended the launch of a new program despite tight school budgets.

“Surfing, the canoes, water sports are part of the culture and art of Hawaii,” he said. “When you think of Hawaii, when you think of the culture and the history of surfing, going back — it is the sport of kings, and it goes back in ancient Hawaiian times. And so from a cultural perspective and the very idea of what Hawaii represents to the world, surfing, outrigger canoeing, water sports, hula, music — all of the culture and arts, the great spectrum deserves support. And just because we have a tough fiscal time doesn’t mean that should be ignored.”

Amemiya said the schools may consider adding bodyboarding, bodysurfing and other water sports at a later date.

“Let’s get surfing right first,” he said.


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