Surfing for the United States, but Representing Hawaii

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“I’m really proud that I do have a little bit of Hawaiian blood, so I feel a connection to the people here, and the waters,” Moore said, sitting outside a Honolulu coffee shop one afternoon.

Back in 2019, Moore competed at an event in Japan overseen by the International Surfing Association.

“I was totally wrapped in the Hawaiian flag, but we had U.S.A. shirts on,” Moore said. “It felt like I was betraying Hawaii. It was weird.”

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Sebastian Zietz, a veteran pro surfer, competes under Hawaii’s flag. He was born in Florida but moved to Hawaii when he was four months old.

“I’m a haole, a white guy who moved to Hawaii, so I can’t be claiming anything,” he said. “But I definitely show a lot of respect to all local people, and walk on eggshells, because if you know the history you know Hawaii was illegally overthrown. That’s why they kind of don’t like haoles.”

Bishop Museum in Honolulu is the major natural and cultural museum of the state. In late 2019 it unveiled a surfing exhibit, timed for the Olympics (and extended into 2021 because of the pandemic). The collection included the oldest known surfboards, used by kings and queens, and those used more recently by Florence and Moore, royalty of a new sort.

It was another not-too-subtle reminder, to locals and tourists alike, that surfing did not originate in California, which claims it as its state sport, or Australia or Brazil, both of which sometimes dominate surf contests.

Surfing persisted, barely, through the decline and takeover of Hawaii in the 1800s. Colonizers saw it as a leisure activity, indicative of a poor work ethic. But late in the century, photography and travel helped spread surfing around the world, rejuvenating it.

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