Kathy Phillips has seen it coming for a long time.
In her ten-plus years directing the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA), she has watched the United States Surfing Federation (USSF) go from being the rocket fuel behind American surfers’ professional aspirations to a much less influential organization. Through the years, Kathy has stuck by the USSF’s side when many have not, forking over thousands of dollars toward debt and dues that, she says, haven’t come back to help the ESA in any way. But 2003 was the final straw and, as of June 1, the ESA has officially withdrawn its membership and support from the USSF.
“There’s two main reasons we got out,” Kathy says. “One is that the USSF is carrying a lot of debt right now, which is dangerous for [the ESA's] financial liabilities. And secondly, it’s just an overall frustration with the USSF’s inability to behave like a real NGB (National Governing Body) and advance U.S. amateur surfing.”
The ESA isn’t the only heavy-hitter to call it quits on the USSF. It was Janice Aragon and the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) that backed out first in the early ’90s when it couldn’t agree with the USSF on allotted slots for the U.S. National Team trials.
Despite the mounting troubles that the USSF continually faces, it doesn’t seem to be fading off any time soon. With the upcoming U.S. Championships in Oceanside, CA, being the largest in history, President Paul West remains optimistic about the USSF’s future. “There’s been so many changes in the surfing world and there always will be,” West says. “We don’t see [the ESA's withdrawal] as a negative thing. We never let politics hurt us and we really wish them the best.”
Backing out of the organization that oversees our National Team is certainly not easy, especially for the ESA, which is the world’s largest amateur surfing association and a key provider of U.S. Team members. But Phillips hopes the ESA’s actions may bring back to life America’s ‘glory days’ of ’84 and ’96 and spawn a fresh, successful future for a unified national organization.
“It would be nice to have everyone participating and to have a real U.S. National surfing championship that has the best of the ESA, NSSA, TGSA and HASA,” Kathy Phillips says. “Hopefully, the industry would be more inclined to support, and that is simply what the ESA wants for its members and the United States.” –Andrew Lewis