STAR-BULLETIN / 2004
Skylar Holt, left, and Eddie Maldonado III check out the waves at Makaha Beach as Nalu Foriseth heads back in. Maldonado tried to start a surfing club at Waianae High School. CLICK FOR LARGE
High school teams can hit the surf
School-sanctioned surfing competitions finally taking off
Three years after surfing was approved as a public high school sport, it appears that students will finally be able to hit the water in the coming school year.
A state Board of Education committee will meet tomorrow to go over the implementation of a surfing policy. The board voted to designate surfing a high school sport in May 2004, and asked the Department of Education to come up with rules and regulations.
The process has moved slowly, but organizers say the school-sanctioned contests will happen in the 2007-08 school year.
In the three years since surfing was recognized as a high school sport, there has been more paperwork to fill out than waves to ride.
But starting in the 2007-08 school year, students will finally be able to surf in school-sanctioned competitions against other school teams, said Iris Kahaulelio of Kahuku High School, who coaches students in the Koolauloa Surf Club.
Kahaulelio has been meeting with contest organizers, Department of Education and fire and water safety officials to craft rules for the sport since May 2004, when the Board of Education approved surfing as an interscholastic sport.
Here are some of the proposed rules for schools interested in establishing surf teams:
» Coaches must be at least 18 years old and take an ocean safety course.
» Coaches should monitor ocean conditions and ensure student safety.
» Students are required to attend a Junior Lifeguard Training Skill program.
» All practices and competitions will be considered field trips and need approval of a principal.
Source: Department of Education focus group on surfing
"It took us a whole year. We had to go over every single word: OK, so what does the 'nose' mean, and is it only applied for a shortboard," Kahaulelio said.
The guidelines address concerns over cost, safety and liability.
Students from several public and private schools -- Campbell, Mililani, Roosevelt, Leilehua, Radford, Waialua, Waianae, Kapolei, Maui, Lahainaluna, Kauai, Saint Louis, Kamehameha and Punahou among them -- have competed in surf meets as members of clubs, but they have not been allowed to use their school's names in jerseys or stickers.
Those clubs have been around for decades, with participation as high as 100 students, said Dennis Kumagai, a long-time contest organizer who has worked with the Hawaii Amateur Surfing Association for eight years.
The proposed surfing policies, which a school board committee will take up at a meeting tomorrow, makes the DOE liable if a student surfer injures a recreational surfer during a practice or event. A DOE employee also must monitor surf sessions to ensure rules are followed, and have a rescue board to assist students if they get hurt.
For every six students surfing, there should be at least one adult instructor in the water, or one coach for every 12 students on the beach.
In 2003, the DOE estimated that it could cost as much as $2.6 million a season if all high schools offered the sport and provided coaches, equipment, transportation and lifeguards with Jet Skis at every meet and practice.
But Kahaulelio said the sport won't cost the department nearly that much, because most of the work will be done by parents and other volunteers. Teens will be asked to bring their own boards or share, Kumagai said, adding that fundraisers also will absorb some expenses.
David Cosier, who has been coaching Kalaheo High School surfers in the Pyramid Waveriders Club, said surfing is being held to a higher standard than other water sports, including paddling and swimming.
"It's just a bunch of hoops you have to go through," said Cosier, who coaches about 30 students. "They are excited, but it's just a matter of when" contests will begin.
Plans call for having no more than five school surfing events, probably in the spring of the next school year, for surfers and bodyboarders, Kahaulelio said. She plans to send schools information on how to put together a surf team in the coming weeks.
The surf meets will be managed by Hawaii Surfing Productions, a group formed this year to offer more contest opportunities for isle longboarders and push high school surfing, Kumagai said.
In the meantime, coaches will be talking with the Oahu Interscholastic Association in the hope of incorporating surfing into the league.
"This is long overdue," Kumagai said. "Especially for Hawaii ... where the true sport of the kings was surfing."