Hawaii State Senator Fred Hemmings, R-Kailua, the 1968 World Champion Surfer who helped establish professional surfing and produced surfing television series on all three major networks, was all smiles yesterday when the state officially established surfing reserves at two of Hawaii’s well-known surfing areas.

Gov. Linda Lingle, with her 71st executive order, set up the reserves in Waikiki and the North Shore, recognizing the “cultural, sports and historic significance of important surf sites in Hawaii,” and “raising public awareness about the importance of protecting, nourishing and developing Hawaii’s world famous surf sites.”

“Hawaii has some of the most famous and beautiful surf sites in the world and its native sons, such as Senator Fred Hemmings, have deservedly gained international recognition in the sport of surfing,” Lingle says.

The Hawaii State Senate had passed a bill unanimously this past session with the help of Senators Carol Fukunaga, Brickwood Galuteria, and Sam Slom.

However, on the final day of the legislative session, April 29, the House killed the bill largely because interference by Rep. Lyla Berg, D-Aina Haina, Rep. Hermina Morita, D-Kauai, and their backing by House Speaker Calvin Say.

House Republicans, who are just 6 of 51 members, fought for the bill to pass, asked for an explanation as to why it had been recommitted, and were given none and told they were out of order. When their efforts were defeated, Republicans said it was party politics at its worst. Their debate is archived in Hawaii Reporter’s television section and on YOU TUBE.

Rep. Tom Brower, D-Waikiki, who attended the ceremony yesterday at the governor’s office was supportive of the measure which impacts his district, but he says other Democrats said they had concerns about whether the designation would create favoritism or negatively affect businesses and whether it would push out beachgoers who aren’t surfers. Hemmings said the concerns were not valid, and that the designation is much like the one in Australia – ceremonial.

“Hawaii is the birth place of surfing, and we founded professional surfing, but when it comes to the cultural aspects of surfing, California has the heritage area and surfing museums, and Australia has surfing reserves,” Hemmings says.

Lingle says the House’s action angered her staff, and they looked for ways to make the designation without legislative authority through the executive order. All funds used for the designation can be privately raised.

(Translation for surfers:  Hemmings’ efforts to get a surfing reserve was “caught inside” (temporarily) when some key Democrats “dropped in” on his plan, but wasn’t “blown out” or “wiped out” and in the end, Hemmings was “pumping” and “stoked.”)

Hawaii Surfing Reserves Press Conference
Hawaii Surfing Reserves Press Conferenc

Hemmings thanked the governor, Senators Carol Fukunaga, Brickwood Galuteria, Clayton Hee and Sam Slom, and GOP House members along with Rep. Tom Brower, D-Waikiki, for their support. “Hawaii is the genesis of surfing. We must regain the cultural and sports leadership of the world of surfing, and surfing reserves is a step in that direction.”

Hemmings also spoke fondly about Hawaii’s most beloved 20th century hero – Duke Kahanamoku, the Olympic swimming gold medal winner and international surfing legend – who Hemmings spent a great deal of time with both in and out of the ocean. The Waikiki designation is named for Kahanamoku.

Taking Kahanamoku out surfing with a cushion on his board on his last wave before he died is a memory Hemmings will always cherish.

Many lessons about surfing and life were learned from Kahanamoku, Hemmings says, the main one being this: “Aloha is not a word or greeting, it is a lifestyle. Duke was the true embodiment of Aloha. He was gracious all the time and never had a bad word to say about anybody. Looking back at history of Hawaii, there were many great leaders, but the most beloved person in 20th century in Hawaii was Duke.”

Hemmings is not running for another 4-year Senate term in 2010 because he wants to resign from politics, but his supporters say his 8 years in the House and 8 years in the Senate was quite a ride.

More on the web: http://www.surfingwalkoffame.com/pioneer/Fred_Hemmings.html

Reach Malia Zimmerman, editor of Hawaii Reporter, at Malia@hawaiireporter.com

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