SECESSION: NSSA Opts Out of Surfing America

March 5, 2008 – – Just when it seemed like amateur surfing in America had finally cleared a straight path, a fork in the road has reappeared.

I would hope that Surfing America and all surfing organizations respect the NSSA National Championships at Lower Trestles. – NSSA Executive Director Janice Aragon

Back in November, the National Scholastic Surfing Association
(NSSA) drew a line in the sand. It was then that NSSA Executive Director Janice Aragon advised Surfing America, the governing body of United States amateur surfing, that the NSSA Board of Directors would not renew its Surfing America membership.

In October of 2007, Surfing America’s Board of Directors drew up member organization requirements that included the use of certified judges, adoption of USA Championship divisions, and some cross-promotion requirements among other things. These requirements did not sit well with the NSSA.

According to Aragon, there were two main reasons the NSSA Board of Directors opted out. The first was the requirement by Surfing America that NSSA members must pay an additional Surfing America membership fee.

“The NSSA believed that its members should have had the choice to join Surfing America, but not be required to do so in order to become a member of NSSA. This should be the choice of each individual separately.”

Secondly, according to Aragon, the NSSA board did not support the Surfing America mandate of using Surfing America certified judges.

“Surfing America's position was that we would have to hire whoever Surfing America had listed as certified. The NSSA reserves the right to hire the employees to work the events as we see fit,” explained Aragon. “We want to use ASP judges. We will do our best to hire ASP judges and we have called the ASP North America office many times to request names of ASP judges.”

If you're a young competitive surfer this means you have two paths to a National championship. You can chose the NSSA, a well-recognized organization and a national title coveted for years. Or you can chose a Surfing America (via ESA, WSA, HASA, TGSA) and you then compete for the title in Surfing America’s USA Championships. This is the path leading to an ISA-sanctioned USA National Team; a team that travels to the world games, and eventually one day, to the Olympics.

A tough choice no doubt.

“Clearly Surfing America has very solid vision for American amateur surfing,” explained Surfing America national coach Joey Buran. “It involves and includes as many amateur surfing associations as possible. But basically the NSSA and Surfing America have agreed to disagree.”

The NSSA offers a long and storied tradition. From its early days with Chuck Allen to the Ian Cairns/PT era to champions such as Tom Curren, Kelly Slater, and Carissa Moore. Many of today’s surfing industry moguls were at one time NSSA participants such as Kelly Gibson (Rip Curl), Richard Woolcott (Volcom), and Mike Parsons. (The list of industry/NSSA alums berated by a red, white, and blue jumpsuit wearing Kanga for not bringing him his McGriddle sandwich fast enough is too long to list.) Interestingly, the industry seems to be offering its fiscal backing to Surfing America with O’Neill, Quiksilver, Billabong, and …Lost all on board. Rip Curl and Hurley just joined Surfing America as well. And of course the biggest hitter of them all, PacSun, is Surfing America’s title sponsor. The industry, it seems, has spoken. And, in more ways than one, the industry has stepped up.

If you are an amateur surfer, the surfing industry gives you choices. Rip Curl’s Grom Search, Volcom’s VQS, Quiksilver King of the Groms, and a list of regionally sponsored events like No Fear’s Koastal Kaos are some of the many outlets for amateur surfers. The pie is big, and the slices aren’t necessarily getting thinner, the pie is simply getting larger.

According to Aragon, maybe it’s not such a bad thing. “Throughout the course of history there have been other organizations that have had U.S. amateur champions,” said Aragon.

In it’s corner, the NSSA has big hitter Nike 6.0 backing their plan. And one big plus for the NSSA is their annual championships at Lower Trestles. Holding a contest permit at Lowers is like dating the entire Laker Girls squad: Super hot and plenty of lips to smack.

Surfing America does have plans, according to Buran, to eventually hold the Surfing America’s US championships at Lowers. “Hey, it’s a free country, a free market system,” explained Buran. “Nothing wrong with a little competition. We will eventually want to move to Lowers. And we will actively pursue Lowers as a contest site.”

Aragon is hoping that other organizations will steer clear of Lowers. “I would hope that Surfing America and all surfing organizations respect the NSSA National Championships at Lower Trestles,” said Aragon. “The NSSA has run the National Championships at Lowers since 1992 and I trust that people will recognize and show consideration for the event's longevity and its importance and value to youth surfing.”

For its part, Surfing America will welcome the NSSA back into the fold at anytime. As one Surfing America lieutenant told me, “Surfing America is all about inclusion, not exclusion. We’d love to have the NSSA under our umbrella.”