WIPED OUT Why No More Native Hawaiians on the WCT?

| posted on July 22, 2010

By Daniel Ikaika Ito

If there weren’t any Americans playing in Major League Baseball next season, the Entertainment Sports Programming Network (ESPN) would probably cover the incident as a national crisis. Stuart Scott would be on Sports Center citing the tragedy, asking how it’s possible that the inventors of America’s favorite past time are not competing at the highest level of the sport. Die-hard baseball fans would rant and rave about how the game would be changed forever. Luckily, for Americans and baseball, that scenario is only fiction. But, for Native Hawaiians and professional surfing, it’s a reality.

This is the first time in modern surfing history that a Native Hawaiian isn’t competing for the ASP World Championship of Surfing. Translation in pidgin: “No mo Hawaiians on da ‘CT, bule.” It’s important to note that a Native Hawaiian is a descendant from the indigenous Polynesians who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands before Western contact.

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That’s not saying that the World Championship Tour is void of aloha. On the contrary, the aloha spirit is still alive and well on the WCT with ambassadors Pancho Sullivan, Fred Patacchia, Jr., Roy Powers and the Irons bruddahs. This isn’t an issue of aloha. It’s about kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiians) not being represented at the highest level of competitive surfing. For many Native Hawaiians, surfing isn’t just recreation or a life style, it’s a cultural practice. A way for Hawai‘i’s aboriginal descendants to tap into the lines of their na- kupuna (ancestors). The missing indigenous Hawaiians on the WCT has great cultural implications for the Native Hawaiian community.

When 29-year-old Maikalani Kaiolohia Robb (a.k.a. Kalani Robb) and 36-year-old Vincent Sennen Garcia (a.k.a. Sunny Garcia) retired from the World Championship Tour last year, they became the last Native Hawaiians to compete on the coveted World Championship Tour. Aside from 2000 WCT World Champion Sunny G, the only other Native Hawaiian to win an ASP Championship title was 1993 World Champ Derek Ho, the first kanaka maoli to win an ASP World Championship. The absence of Hawai‘i’s indigenous people in pro surfing only concerns professional shortboarders. Native Longboard World Champs Rusty Keaulana, Bonga Perkins and Dino Miranda have brought the longboard world title back to the Islands a combined five times. Mahalo bruddahs. So, why are kanaka maoli extinct on the “Dream Tour?” Like most things in life, the absence of Native Hawaiians on the WCT boils down to a lack of money and opportunity.

According to the US census bureau, Native Hawaiians lead the 50th state in poverty and prison populations. In fact, most of the homeless people camping out on the beaches on the Leeward side of O‘ahu are Native Hawaiians. As a result, the kama‘aina (children of the land) growing up in the tents on the beach spend a lot of time in the water and develop surfing skills quickly. Unfortunately, those Native Hawaiian youths will, most likely, never be able to take their ocean prowess to the amateur surf contest scene due to a lack of funds. “Surfing is an expensive sport to pick up,” says Kamehameha Schools graduate and WQS warrior Jason Shibata. According to Shibata, who competed in the NSSA and HASA as a young boy, many Hawaiian parents don’t have $300 dollars laying around to buy their keiki a surfboard. Let alone extra cash to drive their grom to different beaches to hone their skills.

  • Mahina

    WAKE UP ASP…put the hawaiians on the CT..

  • Al

    No Hawaiians = No Aloha! Where’s the representation from the 50th State? Auwe!


    As far as gifts go…its pretty clear Hawaii’s at the top in raw goods. Hawaiians have a connection with the Ocean thats too deep to describe; one can only feel it and watch it. Our waves?…’nough said there too. Whats missing is the support system from the top down. We must create the kinda Pride that Wins…A cultural influence from the day Keiki hit the water. Our Pro Surfers (and those aspiring to this career) should be as respected and promoted as all other more mainstream sports. But its not. Not everyone has a Dad like Carissa Moore, for example. What about Surf Clubs (private and publicly funded) that compete ferociously…every damn weekend!? Then howza ’bout some 1/2 way decent media coverage to follow up?! These athletes are human…they’ll get pumped to see their efforts are valued by mainstream media and money. Its sometimes as if… in this Ocean State…. our very own Hawaiian Sport… doesnt even exist to some of these key people. Take a look at Australia infrastructure for manufacturing the best and copy them…their surf pros (and surf pros to be) are bonified sports Heros with $ to back em up. And whatya know! There’s more Aussies on top of the tour than all other countries! Out of the top 36 as of 8/21/11…Hawaii has 2 in there. Starting with Dusty Payne at 20th and then Freddy P. at 32nd! Must we have to rely of rare gifts like Derek Ho (!st hawaiian 1993 World Champ) or Sunny Garcia(2000) or Andy Irons(02-04) once or twice a decade?! Hell no! There’s so much talent just waiting to be realized & recognized in this Land of Aloha! Come on!…Its coincidentally Duke Kahanamoku’s 121st B Day this Wednesday 8/24. The helps but we need more….In closing, Imagine taking the Ocean and the Duke out of Hawaii’s history.

  • haole get lost

    This is sickening, but then again it could be good for Hawaiians to stay away from the phony pro scene and kill it being the best locals. I think Hawaiians should film each other – amateur – and put it online for the world to see that they are the best. We have the same problem in skiing, but what is starting to happen is that the locals are known for being stronger and anyone can film and put you out there. Fuck the mags and the comps! We whites even have problems with other whites and other races. Shaka. BTY, your islands are going back to you soon.

  • Who Cares About the Pros

    Who cares. Everyone knows Hawaiians are better surfers and who keeps track of anything pro anymore?

  • Daniel Ikaika Ito

    Pretty lame that you act like you wrote this story when I wrote it originally for Free Surf Magazine.