A shorebreak story.
Gearing up for our fifteenth year in 2019, the Kailua Shorebreak Classic is a free, amateur surf competition for keiki aged 2 to 16. It celebrates and honors the memory of four professional surfers and watermen, Peter Miller, Jason Bogle, David Aluli and Jeff Barbieto. All were community fixtures that dedicated their lives to Kailua, their hometown, and to Hawaii and the surfing community more broadly. All were lives well lived.
The event was initially organized in 2005 by Peter Miller in memory of his best friend Jason Bogle, a fellow Kailua resident and professional surfer on the ASP World Tour who died in 2004 after an extended battle with cancer. The following year, Miller, an air ambulance pilot, died in an accident while flying to the Island of Maui. Just a day earlier, Miller’s close friend, David Aluli, passed away as a result of long-term illness. Mike Miller, Peter’s twin brother, and former professional surfer Sean Yano carried on the Shorebreak Classic, still in its infancy, to honor and preserve the legacies of their esteemed comrades. Special dedication was later made to Jeff Barbieto, a friend and Kailua lifeguard who died in June of 2011 while diving in deep waters off of Ewa Beach on O‘ahu’s western shore.
The annual event, hosted by Kalama Beach Club on the last weekend of August, has grown to become one of the largest amateur surf events in Hawaii. The contest is free for all contestants, a welcomed respite from high entry fees of other competitions. Money should not preclude keiki from competition. Experienced or beginner, tremendously skilled or not, all are welcome. Every child walks away a winner with a prize pack brimming with surf, skate and other items donated by local surf shops and restaurants. What’s not to like?
Last year, the event was blessed with sunny skies, a perfect cooling breeze, and over 200 excited keiki ready to compete. This year, we all hope for more of the same. Surf’s up; game on.
For the event organizers, it is more than just fun in the sun. The Shorebreak Classic is an opportunity to impart core tenets of Hawaii and surf culture to the next generation of surf ambassadors. Train keiki in the way that they should go, and they will not depart from it.
Two lessons in particular are always relevant and tangible.
E Ola Pono Me Ke Kanaka - Live righteous with people
Hawaiian culture prioritizes family, or ‘ohana. This term culturally extends beyond the traditional Western definition of the family nucleus to all members of a particular community group. With ‘ohana, everyone matters and has something unique and meaningful to contribute. This tenor of ‘ohana cultivates honor and respect for elders, protection and mentoring of the younger generations, and the inclusion of all community members. Surf culture, at its best, embraces this communal focus.
At the Shorebreak Classic, diligent efforts are exhausted in engineering an environment that strengthens old relationships and develops new ones. It teaches respect for elders, and affords space for the older youth to mentor the young. When the smallest groms take to the waves, there are parents, siblings and friends of all ages in the water protecting, guiding and teaching them. Everyone is included in this community; everyone has a role. Everyone is important and valued.
We are always impressed with the attitudes and maturity displayed by the contestants. When one kid wins, the others surround him or her with support and celebration. When a leash is broken, another is promptly and freely given. When one fails, others encourage. Radical generosity has consistently been exemplified when some contestants gifted the surfboards they won in the competition to others who had greater need. One female contestant, a past winner of the event, has donated one of her own boards to the event every year since 2012.
The Shorebreak Classic fosters an atmosphere of friendly competition, good sportsmanship, and investment in the community. Here, ‘ohana thrives.
E Ola Pono Me Ka ‘Āina A Me Ke Kai - Live righteous with the land and sea
Surfers have always been inclined toward environmentalism. In part, this is circumstantial and self-interested. Surfers experience firsthand the results of maritime mismanagement. They are directly affected by ocean pollution and poor marine conditions. Contaminated water and floating rubbish in the lineup presents less than ideal surfing conditions.
This environmental perspective, however, is also long-established in Hawaiian values and norms. As a society of seafarers, the ocean naturally played an important role to Native Hawaiians. As island inhabitants in a geographically isolated region, Hawaiians had tremendous respect for all nature, viewing themselves as stewards of the natural world that was entrusted to them. An ancient Hawaiian proverb summarizes:
He ali‘i nō ka ‘āina, ke kauwā wale ke kanaka
The land is the chief, the people merely servants.
In [quasi] modern and adapted terms: ask not what nature can do for you, but what you can do for nature.
Nature is a gift requiring proper preservation and protection. This mentality investigates best practices for the environment and develops methods which affords a mutually concordant existence. Cultural respect and honor for the '‘āina safeguards its health and vibrancy.
The Shorebreak Classic yields teachable moments for event participants related to environmental awareness and conservancy. Beach cleanup is emphasized and local environmental groups partner to supply information related to recycling and other environmental issues. Practical lessons, such as “leave the beach cleaner than you found it,” and cleanup games incentivize environmental sustentation and afford memorable takeaway points for kids. The event utilizes 100 percent certified compostable paper goods and utensils, reminding young and old alike that creating sustainable habits doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Environmental stewardship and protection begins by cultivating an attitude of respect for our natural world.
Cheers to all of the competitors in this Classic for their talent, enthusiasm, and attitude. With these young ambassadors, Hawaii's surf culture has a bright future.
And, of course, special recognition to Mike Miller, Sean Yano and the many other volunteers that put forth extraordinary effort to provide a safe environment where young grommets of all ages and abilities can experience the excitement of competition, build unique and lasting relationships and, simply, have a great time in the sand and surf.
At the end of a long day, the joy exhibited on the young faces and stories they energetically recount leave no doubt as to the unequivocal achievement of the event. On these days, the legacies of Miller, Boyle, Aluli and Barbieto stand tall.