Legislators are considering a way to fund the Department of Education to make surfing a high school sport in the state.
House Bill 2277 would give a unspecified amount to the DOE to support and promote surfing as an interscholastic sports in all state high school athletic leagues. Although surfing is a state-sanctioned sport, Maui is the only league that participates.
“The Legislature finds that surfing is of significant cultural, social, and economic value to the people of Hawaii, as well as the many visitors who travel to the State for surfing,” reads the bill co-introduced by 26 representatives from across the state, and one co-sponsor from Oahu.
It also recognizes Carissa Moore (Oahu resident) who became the first woman in surfing to win gold as an Olympic Sport in its 2021 debut, as well as the “many other Hawaii surfers who have dedicated themselves to honoring and preserving the sport and spirit of surfing in Hawaii.”
Moore said in testimony that passing the bill would open the door for surfing to be pursued as “a serious and legitimate interscholastic sport in Hawaii’s schools, which is something that Hawaii’s children so desperately deserve.”
“It’s brought me so much joy and taught me so many valuable lessons in life. And I think that, not only has it taught me how to balance school and surfing and athletics, but it’s also taught me to find, you know, peace in stressful situations. And during this time of COVID, it’s a really nice place to escape and find peace. And that can be a really great place for kids to find some mental peace,” she told members of a joint Committee on Education and Economic Development on Tuesday. “So I just wanted to say that I’m definitely in support of bringing surfing into the school system.”
In written testimony, she also mentioned that the sport was born in Hawaii and is loved by millions around the world. This could be a boon to the state’s economy.
“From a financial point of view, one would be hard pressed to dismiss the economic attributes that this Bill would ultimately foster. When surfing thrives in Hawaii, so will local businesses,” she wrote.
Keith Amemiya also testified in support of House Bill 2277. Former executive director of Hawaii High School Athletic Association, Keith Amemiya is currently the executive director at Central Pacific Bank Foundation. He said that he worked for more than ten years with Moore and her dad, Chris Moore to make surfing an official high-school sport.
“Now, with the Legislature’s help, we’re as close as we’ve ever been to making this long-overdue dream happen for many public high school students statewide,” he said.
Since the early 2000s, surfing has been a sanctioned high-school sport in Hawaii. This is the place where surfing began. Surfing was approved by the Board of Education in May 2004 as a prep sport. However, funding issues, safety concerns and liability prevented the sport being sanctioned.
Only the Maui Interscholastic League have ever made surfing a high school sport. The last Maui meet was held in spring 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2021 season was canceled.