In case you live in an ice cave on the Siberian tundra, you already know that at noon on Tuesday, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America. His inauguration ceremony set attendance records, as politicians and celebrities fell all over themselves trying to grab a piece of the limelight. All the while, Barack looked elegant, spoke powerfully, and acted … frankly … Presidential. His election sets more precedents than I care to try to regurgitate after watching two straight days of CNN, but after consuming a never-ending stream of imagery since Monday morning, the enduring image for me as lover of current events and swell events (not necessarily in that order) was when, just after being sworn in as the Commander in Chief of the most powerful nation on Earth, he turned to the crowd and threw a proper shaka.
Call me melodramatic, but, regardless of your personal politics, if you can look at that image and not somehow connect to it, then you may be too cynical to reach. After decades of watching our politicians lawyer us into submission, to see a young guy with a couple kids who grew up in the surfing's heartland casually but genuinely use the defining hand gesture of our subculture really hit home for me. Hawaii's issues are surfers' issues, from the fragility of the environment to the struggle to stay true to ones roots to simply learning to share a good thing with an ever-increasing number of people.
In the final days leading up to his inauguration, Obama's message has been one of community service, a calling that applies profoundly to surfers. We're one of the few demographics that literally swims in the problems of society, so it doesn't make you a bleeding-heart liberal to acknowledge that environmental issues are our issues, and that every natural disaster from global warming to oil spills land in our front yards. Regardless of which party you register your support with, this seems like a good moment to step back and reevaluate your commitment to your local beach. You don't have to attack Japanese whaling vessels at sea. Instead, educate yourself on the issues facing your stretch of coast (this info is readily available in local papers and on the Web), get active, and participate. Start thinking of the beach as your own, and then act accordingly.