RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kahuku High surf team member Keola Kahaulelio, a ninth-grader, catches a wave at Haleiwa Beach Park.
Reading, writing and ripping
About 30 high school students will compete in Hawaii's first official scholastic surf meet
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Hawaii public students will finally catch a wave Saturday in the state's first official high school surf meet.
About 30 students from four public schools are expected to compete at Flies, a break off Kakaako Waterfront Park.
Contest officials, coaches and students, some who have been pushing for years to have the Department of Education embrace the sport, say surfing should get the recognition it deserves in a state known for its world-class waves and beaches.
"This is the birthplace of surfing," said Dennis Kumagai, director of Hawaii Surfing Productions, an amateur association created to run the three high school events this season. "It's pretty exciting to see this happen."
Surfers from Kahuku, Castle, Kaimuki and Kalaheo high schools will surf competitively nearly four years after the state Board of Education approved surfing as a school sport.
Educators have spent countless hours crafting safety rules and getting water-rescue training to allow students, who also had to take Junior Lifeguard courses, to hit the surf.
The emblem of the Kahuku High surf team on one of the team's boards.
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RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kahuku yearbook photographer Hillary Ka'ahanui directs members and coaches of the Kahuku High Surf Team during a photo shoot at Haleiwa Beach Park.
Be tubed for your school
Students in the state's first scholastic surf meet are thrilled at the opportunity to represent their peers
By Alexandre Da Silva
As Castle High School's surf club adviser, teacher Paul Detton meets with students during lunch to talk about riding waves and view surf movies, and he has arranged winter field trips to watch professional contests on the North Shore.
But actually going into the ocean with them has always been off-limits -- until now.
Hawaii public school students will finally hit the surf in official tournaments beginning Saturday, nearly four years since the state Board of Education approved surfing as an interscholastic sport.
"I've always wanted to try, always wanted to compete," Castle High senior Cody Akiona, 17, said on a recent afternoon as he waxed his longboard and looked at a clean swell brushing Kualoa Point. "Now, since I'm a senior at the school, I might as well try it."
His club is scheduled to face off against surfers from Kaimuki, Kalaheo and Kahuku on Saturday at Flies, a break off Kakaako Waterfront Park in downtown Honolulu. They also will compete on the West Side, first at Nanakuli Tracks in April and then at Maili Point in May, to determine who will clinch the inaugural title, organizers said.
The school board's May 2004 vote to recognize surfing was considered overdue by proponents who struggled to understand how, of all places, Hawaii lacked high school surfing. Schools in New York, South Carolina and Florida all have surf clubs, while California has about 140 schools participating in surf competitions, officials said.
"It's a shame because other countries like Australia and New Zealand have been doing this as part of their school curriculum for years now," said Detton, a special education teacher who's also a Castle High surf coach, as he handed red jerseys to his five students. "We are just catching up now, but it's a step in the right direction. That's cool."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kahuku High Surf Team members Sian Howells, right, a 10th-grader, and Keola Kahaulelio, a ninth-grader, get their boards ready before practicing at Haleiwa Beach Park.
Historically in Hawaii, students from several public and private schools have competed in surf meets as members of clubs, but they have been barred from using their school's names on jerseys or stickers.
Kahuku High Surf Team adviser Iris Kahaulelio, while glad her group of six students can represent their school, feels surfing has been held to stricter standards than water sports like paddling or swimming. She attributed the delay in launching this year's surfing events, which will also include longboarding and bodyboarding, to countless meetings with the Department of Education to craft rules addressing safety and liability concerns.
The red tape almost caused Kesha Dunn, a 17-year-old senior at Kahuku High, to graduate without competing against other schools.
"It's cool. I'll get to be a part of it," Dunn, a surfer since age 3, said on Friday before grabbing her longboard and paddling out with a classmate to practice at Haleiwa Beach.
Surf clubs had to raise funds to cover a $1,500 entry fee for the season, while students had to take a Junior Lifeguard course, Iris said. Coaches also spent $340 each in ocean-safety classes, she said.
"It's just weird because surfing is also a sport now," said Kahaulelio, a biology teacher. "We can use our school names, and it's a surf club, but there is no budget. It's volunteer."
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Castle High School Surf Club coach Jeffrey Donlon chatted with students Joshua Lomont, 16, and Cody Akiona, 17, before going into the water at Kualoa Point on Wednesday. Hawaii high school surf clubs will finally hit the surf in official tournaments beginning Saturday at Flies, a break off Kakaako Waterfront Park in downtown Honolulu.
Kalaheo High Surf Club coach Jeffrey Donlon said the school covered the $1,500 fee through a donation from the Peter Miller Foundation, created in memory of Miller, a 32-year-old surfer and pilot from Kailua who died in a plane crash in 2006. The Castle surf club got a $1,000 gift from the North Shore Lifeguard Association, while the company XCEL helped Kaimuki and Kahuku high schools cover their costs, coaches said.
Kaimuki High Surf Club coach Scott Shibuya, who teaches graphics, said his students raised about $500 by helping cater a dinner at the Waikiki Shell before the Honolulu Marathon and operating food booths during basketball tournaments hosted by the school.
He said recreational surfers at Diamond Head have been welcoming his pack of eight surfers despite the already-heavy crowds at the popular south shore spot.
"We all had to wear the same color rash guards, and they are a bright, neon green, and people started noticing us," Shibuya said. "Most people were really positive about it and kind of excited for us. They all said they wished they had a surf club when they were in high school too."
It was the kind of support retired professional surfer Tony Moniz could only dream of while he attended Farrington High School in the mid-1970s, when he said surfers were viewed as outcasts.
"We were the no-good kids, the surf bums. There was a stigma like that," said Moniz, who owns Faith Riding Co., a company that conducts surf lessons. "I did skip school a lot to surf, but I had zero support from any teacher. We were more like the back-of-the-classroom crew."
Dennis Kumagai, a longtime contest organizer, called surf clubs an important addition to the Hawaii Amateur Surfing Association, which he said tends to attract elite surfers, many of whom homeschool while eyeing a lucrative professional career. He said the goal is to eventually incorporate surf clubs under the Oahu Interscholastic Association, which oversees everything from air riflery to bowling.
"This thing is really made for the student surfer," said Kumagai, director of Hawaii Surfing Productions, an amateur surfing association created to run the three high school events this season. "Let's give them a chance to show they can surf and still be required to do well in school."
Requirements for surf clubs
» Surf clubs must have one coach for every six students in the water, and one coach on the beach for every 12 surfers.
» At least one coach should be on shore at all times.
» Coaches must have CPR and ocean-rescue training.
» Junior Lifeguard certification or equivalent is required for student surfers.
» Students need to provide own surfboards and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA.
» Surf clubs need to have a rescue board, emergency medical kit, air horns and flags.
Source: Hawaii Department of Education