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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's a no-brainer to preserve surfing

By Ferd Lewis

The biggest flaw in state Senate bill 2646 was, apparently, that it was close to Fred Hemmings' heart.

Of course, the subject was surfing and the retiring Republican State senator was a world champion surfer in the 1960s who some believe has salt water in his ventricles.

The bill, which was shoved into a curious and controversial coma of "recommitment" to a future year in the final hours of the House session, would have created largely honorary "surf preserves" on O'ahu's North Shore and in Waikīkī.

It would not have cost taxpayers a cent beyond the paper it was printed on. It would not have disenfranchised or granted exclusivity to any group or constituency. What it would have done is given surfing a form of official recognition.

Yet partisan politics not reason and spite not the spirit of the sport seem to have prevailed in its messy demise.

So, here's hoping that Gov. Linda Lingle will provide a portion of the recognition the measure deserves by the only means available this year, force of executive order.

Not as a parting gesture for Hemmings, who, you sense, wanted it far more for the sport than himself, but because the official attention to surfing is long overdue.

Hemmings drove the bill in large part because nobody else was going to. Because of his background he saw the need and got tired of waiting. And he opened it up to a crowd of co-sponsors. The more the merrier.

The message was that Hawai'i's sport needed some attention on the home front, a celebratory pat on the back, if you will. A reminder of the cultural and historic significance by location. And this was a way to go about it.

Australia has been the far and away the pioneer in recognition of surfing as a sport, which is sad considering where it was born and popularized. New Zealand, Ireland and California have been further along in the worldwide movement than Hawai'i, quite a commentary, indeed.

The same laws currently governing use and operation of the prospective North Shore (Ali'i Beach in Hale'iwa to Sunset Beach) and Waikīkī (Ala Wai to the War Memorial Natatorium) preserves would have prevailed. It would not have opened the way for commercial exploitation. Still, it was legislatively scuttled in the end after having repeated hearings.

Ideally, our politicians would maintain at least a longboard's separation from matters of sport in most instances. Sports being capable of jamming itself up quite well without outside vendettas intruding. But in this case it may take a politician to undo what others have managed to unnecessarily complicate.