It's 4:45 a.m. in Honolulu, and after flying in on the red-eye from California, it's amazing that the Kamehameha Surf Team is awake and frothing. The excitement is well-deserved, though, because this group of kanaka maoli (native Hawaiian) groms are about to be interviewed about winning their first-ever National Scholastic of Surfing Association (NSSA) High School Team title. The morning news tour is the customary victory lap for all Hawaiian surfing champions, but this press junket is a little more special than most because this is the first time a squad composed of all native Hawaiian student-athletes has won the NSSA National High School Team Championship.
The Kamehameha Surf Team ended San Clemente High's four-year reign last weekend at the NSSA National Interscholastic Championships, held at Salt Creek, California, on June 16. It was a hard-fought battle with Kamehameha's Imaikalani DeVault, 16, winning the boys varsity shortboard division and Cayla Moore, 17, capturing the girls varsity shortboard division.
"I was super stoked being carried up the beach this time by the whole team and it was a super cool experience," said DeVault. "It's super different coming from Hawai'i because the waves are more reef breaks and not too many beach breaks. [The reef breaks] are a lot more powerful and usually bigger and [Salt Creek was] one-foot and really weak so you had to adapt a lot and it takes some getting used to."
DeVault, who attends Kamehameha Maui, has competed at the NSSA National Championships for six years, but claimed his first national title this year.
For Moore, who is the younger sister to two-time ASP World Champion Carissa Moore and has been a member of the Kamehameha Surf Team since her freshmen year, the 2014 NSSA National High School Team Championship brought the title back to the birthplace of wave-riding.
"It feels awesome knowing that surfing came from Hawaii and we are bringing the [NSSA National High School Team championship] back to Hawaii, making everyone at home proud because a Hawaiian surf team has never won the title before," said Moore.
This championship is a dream realized for Head Coach Lea Arce, who is a science teacher on the Kamehameha Kapālama campus. Kamehameha Schools is a 128-year-old private school founded by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop with three campuses on the islands of Oahu, Maui and Hawaii and a highly competitive application process. Its admissions policy gives preference to native Hawaiian children.
Arce was instrumental in forming the Kamehameha Surf Team and getting the current club-sport approved by the administration in 2009. At the time, the squad was formed to allow professional surfer Zeke Lau (class of 2012), to compete in the varsity boys division. Since its formation, the Kamehameha Surf Team is undefeated in Hawaii, but the national championship was a justification for the years of hard work and time sacrificed by Arce.
"I'm very excited that the validation [of this NSSA High School Team National championship] is something I've been searching for a long time and I hope that this validates our team as a real surf team and that the national championship will open doors for other schools [in Hawaii]," said Arce.
Although Gov. Neil Abercrombie named surfing as an official school sport in 2011, the Hawaii High School Athletic Association (HHSAA) has yet to implement a formal structure of events and competition format. Currently, OIA and ILH schools organize their surf teams as club sports and compete against each other under the Hawaii Surfing Association.
"I'm hoping that with this championship it will solidify the need for surfing as an interscholastic sport in Hawaii," continued Arce. "Surfing can be used as a way to motivate these young men and women in their culture, but also their passion for that ocean and land as another outlet in addition to the sports that are already offered at schools."