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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Designated reserves help save our surf

By Ferd Lewis

In all the hubbub over keeping the Pro Bowl, attempting to hang on to the various PGA and LPGA events and establish sports commissions, one major sport invariably seems to get short shrift at several levels.

Ironically, it is the one born and raised in these islands: surfing.

Which is part of the reason that a bill currently before the state Senate, SB 2646, this session is both timely and necessary.

The proposed legislation, authored by Sen. Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimānalo, Hawai'i Kai) and co-sponsored by a handful of others, would designate beaches at Waikīkī and on the North Shore as the state's first surfing reserves.

Stamping them with official recognition would cost the state little or nothing beyond the paper it is printed on. But it will say a lot.

It will be a strong reminder, for example, that Hawai'i prizes its surfing past and values the contributions still being made by a sport that had its beginnings and found its popularity on these shores and remains distinctly identifiable with its birthplace.

Contributions that include the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, a premier big- wave event that attracted overflow crowds and more than 1.5 million viewers through the Internet and television in December.

The reserve designation would, at once, be a recognition and stand as an encouragement to perpetuate the sport and protect its environment. The type of statement that is long overdue.

So much so that other areas, notably Australia, have already taken the initiative and the lead in this area. Australia pioneered the concept and in recent years has recognized 24 sites as surfing reserves, dedicating areas to be protected for use by the public and water sports enthusiasts. Other locales, including New Zealand, Ireland and California, are currently studying the concept as part of a growing, worldwide, movement.

The Hawai'i bill, as proposed, would not restrict the use of Waikīkī or the North Shore (detailed as the area from Ali'i Beach in Hale'iwa to Sunset Beach), except as already set down by existing laws. It does not seek to separate but to educate and reaffirm.

"It is not, in any way, exclusionary," said Hemmings, a former world champion surfer and promoter. "It is really nothing more than recognition; an effort to set aside and recognize surfing locations as significant not only to the sport of surfing but to the ocean culture. We'd simply recognize these areas, basically, as historical sites and memorialize them as special places in the world of surfing and in Hawai'i."

Call it paying homage to a sport and part of history and culture too long taken for granted.