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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 16, 2002

Asing, 10, wise beyond her years

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Only 10, Ashley Asing speaks with the wisdom of a veteran surfer.

She knows about wave movements, respects other surfers and appreciates the spiritual benefits of the sport.

It's this deep understanding and honest admiration of surfing that set Ashley apart from other up-and-coming surfers.

Of course, it helps to have talent.

Since she starting competing at age 5, Ashley has placed in more than 25 contests.

She's a favorite in her age division in both the shortboard and longboard events of the 6th annual Rip Curl Girl/China Uemura Wahine Surfing Classic at Kuhio Beach. More than 200 female surfers are participating in a supportive-yet-competitive atmosphere. Finals are today.

"She's very polite, always helping out, always offering a hand to help others," said Uemura, legendary surfer and event organizer. "Anything for anybody. She's really a sweetheart."

According to Uemura's definition of a good surfer — which includes sportsmanship and attitude — Ashley is phenomenal.

Last summer she finished second at a meet and won a new surfboard. Without anyone's encouragement, she gave the board to another girl, whose board was old and falling apart.

"It's not about winning to her," said Tommy Asing, Ashley's father and a longtime surfer. "She tries her best at whatever she does. Always 110 percent. And she's satisfied with what she does because she works hard."

As a youngster determined to learn how to swim, she would go every day to the pool at the Moanalua Rec Center, behind her elementary school, to practice different strokes. Within two months she was already placing at swim meets, competing with the Kamehameha Swim Club in the butterfly and freestyle events.

"I didn't know anything about swimming," said Ashley, who just completed the fifth grade at Moanalua Elementary. "I would love to swim in the Olympics, but I don't want to do much traveling. This is my home."

For as long as she can remember, Ashley has spent entire weekends at the beach with her family, surfing or paddling, mostly near their home in 'Ewa Beach and often in Waikiki, where she caught her first wave six years ago.

Her father, a renowned karate champion, gave up 28 years of competition to be "a black-belt dad."

He ditched his training schedule — four hours a day, six days a week — to spend more time with his daughter and 8-year-old son Keanu, a decision he has never regretted.

"I thought if I put that much time into my family," he said, "I could be that successful."

He's at every surf contest, at every swim meet, at every practice. He has raised his children to be respectful, diligent and appreciative.

Those qualities, he said, make great surfers— and, more important, great people.

"It's not just about ability, it's about character," said Asing, 42. "It's all that put together ... My life is built around my children. I've dedicated my time to making them happy. The window of opportunity to be with them like this is only so big."

Armed with this unconditional support from her family, Ashley is free to dream.

She wants to be a marine biologist or dolphin trainer — working as a cashier at Foodland or Starbucks when she retires — if she doesn't qualify for the Olympics. She loves to write short stories, letting her imagination take her to places she has only dreamed about. She rides dirt bikes in Kahuku and skates with her friends at The Ice Palace.

But her passion will always lie in the ocean, among the waves.

"I'm surrounded by ocean, I may as well get into it," said Ashley, who finishes her homework during school just so she can surf when she gets home. "I meet a lot of people, and it's really fun. It's a way to show aloha to everybody."

Because surfing is more than just a sport to her, or something she's good at. It's a part of her life. It defines her.

"Surfing, in a way, shows feeling, expresses yourself," she said, watching the sets with knowing eyes. "I say it expresses mine. I love surfing. I think everybody in Hawai'i should do it."