This is our America Issue, but soon you’ll find that the deck we’re dealing from is shy a high card. In these pages you’ll find plenty from the West Coast, plenty from the East Coast, but no Hawaii. Hawaii’s a state, though, right? They vote (sometimes), speak English (sort of) and the President was born there, right? (Correct.) Everyone knows that Hawaii is the 50th state of the union. Everyone except the ASP. Because in pro surfing Hawaii is a sovereign nation, separate from the United States, and each of its citizens carries the proud suffix after his or her surname: HAW.
While there is an actual reason for this designation, sometimes it does seem like a free-for-all in the global pro surfing community. For instance, why do the Canary Islands (CNY) and the Basque Country (EUK) get their own letters when technically they’re both Spain (ESP)? And why does Aussie Glenn “Micro” Hall claim Ireland (IRL) when clearly he’s Elvish? [Consider (RIV) for Rivendell.] And why in the [surf] world is Hawaii not part of the USA?
One of the principal architects of pro surfing and the former Triple Crown director, Randy Rarick, posits that the HAW abbreviation dates back to contests like the Makaha Championships and Peru Invitational — both comps that were around before Hawaii officially became a state of the union in August of 1959. Rarick claims that even back then, mainland America — both East and West coasts — had their own consolidated surfing association (now ASP North America) and Hawaii had theirs. And that after Hawaii became the 50th state, the suffix just stuck, and by tradition hasn’t changed.
That, or it just hasn’t caught on; news gets there pretty late sometimes. For instance, fanny packs and rattails are still very in vogue in some towns there.
Ironically, if anyone in Hawaii were to ask many of the most famous HAW surfers, like John John, Bruce, Dusty or JOB, if they were Hawaiian, they would unanimously say, “ No.” Because in Hawaii, despite what Joey Turpel calls them, they are local Caucasians (haoles) — something you’re well reminded of pretty early on in public school there. Because while residents in California are Californians and folks in Florida are Floridians, an actual Hawaiian is a whole other ethnicity.
I know, it’s complicated. And what does this have to do with American surfing? Is it a form of segregation to exclude Hawaii from an America Issue? Absolutely. And the thing is, most HAW surfers would support this sovereignty. State senators, two House Reps and a Constitution be damned — they enjoy this separation just as much as their geographic isolation. Not to mention, at least for a surfer, everything about Hawaii feels like you should’ve brought a passport. From the in-flight agricultural customs forms to the sudden change in climate to the vegetation and language — kama’aina welcome home — as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac. Suddenly, everyone drives so slowly. The waves move so fast. Everyone’s wearing their shirts on their heads, and, no, mahalo doesn’t mean “trash.”
The nation of Hawaii gets at least a yearly on-location issue devoted to its shores, so yes, we’ll continue to exclude Hawaii from an America Issue because it will always have enough surfers, waves and stories to sustain its own. The surfers will stay HAWaiian for a reason, be it a carry-over in history or tradition, and this will never change. And if it ever had to, you try telling Kala and the rest of the Pipe Pro entrants to change those three letters back. —Beau Flemister