Oct 3, 2005


What Would Duke Do?

As the conversation heated up once again as to whether or not Hawaii’s public schools should endorse surfing as an official sport, the board members of the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation (ODKF) found ourselves asking “What would Duke Do?”

For years and years, surf clubs have existed at Hawaii’s public schools and they participate in National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) competitions – but because it is not a school-sanctioned sport, they are not allowed to use their school names in competition.

How can it be that surfing is a school-sanctioned sport in California – but not in Hawaii, where the sport was born?  The BOE and DOE contend that legitimizing surfing as a sport would be a huge liability and control issue for the schools.  Although through membership, every student who competes in its meets is covered, the NSSA says that it hasn’t had an insurance claim in its 25 years of existence.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the highest rates of injury occur in sports that involve contact.  Football-related injuries account for the highest number of visits to emergency rooms, followed by gymnastics, ice skating, skateboarding, sledding, skiing/snowboarding and soccer.

Proponents of the idea say that making surfing an official school sport would help to motivate kids to stay in school.  Those who love it say that surfing not only builds you up physically, it builds your self-confidence as well.   It would help schools to reach at-risk kids.  Like any other high school sport, surf teams would meet regularly for practice, train athletes in safety issues and help to bolster school pride.

Over the years, the ODKF has given tens of dozens of scholarships to students who participate in sports the Duke loved, and many more grants for Hawaii kids to travel to compete in the water sports which Duke excelled at, especially surfing.  We are convinced that if he were alive today, Hawaii’s greatest athlete would be at the head of the line to testify in favor of making surfing an official school sport.  It is the sport he loved the most.  It is the sport that he took to the world, which helped make Hawaii famous.

Because he believed in and lived the Aloha spirit, it would be impossible for Duke to understand today’s climate where fear of liability rules decision making.  No doubt Duke would say we need to fix that, too.   But there is no question that Duke Paoa Kahanamoku would say that surfing should be a high school sport.  And he’d surely want to know why it hadn’t happened already.

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Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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