Surfing named high school sport in HI

Carissa Moore speaks at the announcement of surfing as a high school sport in Hawaii. AP Images

HONOLULU -- Hawaii, the birthplace of wave riding, became the first state in the nation to officially recognize surfing as a high school sport on Monday.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Lt. Gov. Brian Shatz, Department of Education superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and Board of Education member Keith Amemiya announced in Waikiki the state's commitment to make surfing a high school sport by the spring of 2013.

"We wanted to get the entire administration team together to show that we're in total support," Abercrombie said. "Surfing is the official sport of the state of Hawaii, but we haven't been able to put together the necessary protocols in the schools until now. One of the advantages of the new school board is the new sense of cooperation."

The administration team invited Oahu's Carissa Moore, 18, who was recently crowned the Association of Surfing Professionals women's world champion, to the ceremony. She is the youngest ASP world champion and graduated in 2010 from Punahou School, a private school that also boasts President Barack Obama as an alumnus. Although Moore doesn't directly benefit from this historical recognition, she still realizes that this is a great opportunity for Hawaii's youth.

"I think this is really exciting that surfing is going to be a part of schools' sports programs," said Moore, who became the first woman from Hawaii to win a world championship in surfing since Margo Oberg in 1984. "Surfing has been a really big part of my life and has taught me a lot of valuable lessons: what hard work and perseverance can do, time management and how to stay organized."

Matoyoshi echoed Moore's sentiments about the value of sports and its lessons for student athletes.

"Sports are a tremendous motivator for students," Matayoshi said. "For students to participate on their surf team like any other athlete in the public schools, they will need to maintain a 2.0 grade point average and they will need to be there at school. [Surfing] will be a part of the culture of the school and the place to encourage student athletes and their commitment to education and themselves."

According to Matoyoshi, the funding to implement surfing into public schools will come from the private sector and the community. Thus, no additional programs or curriculum will suffer any further cutbacks due to surfing becoming a high school sport.

In May 2004, the Hawaii State Board of Education approved surfing as the official individual sport of Hawaii. Despite overwhelming support by parents, students and the surfing community, funding challenges kept the sport from being recognized in state high school athletics until Monday.

Former professional surfer, legendary surfboard shaper and surf coach Ben Aipa came to the announcement in Waikiki to hear the good news himself. For Aipa, who is a Native Hawaiian and has been at the forefront of the campaign to make surfing a high school sport, Monday's event was dream realized after nearly four decades.

"For the oldest sport in Hawaii, it's finally accepted," he said.