SUNSET BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) – Professional surfers descend on Oahu’s North Shore every winter to compete in lucrative surf contests. They’ve never had to take a drug test, but that’s about to change.
The Association of Surfing Professionals has begun random testing for several drugs, including performance enhancing drugs and recreational drugs, starting with the Quiksilver Pro at Snapper in Australia.
Longtime surfer and former state legislator Fred Hemmings has been pushing for such tests on pro surfers since 1988.
“I feel strongly about drug addiction,” Hemmings said. “It’s one of the great plagues of America and of the world and it has destroyed a lot of young lives, especially unfortunately we’ve had in surfing.”
The guidelines haven’t been published yet, but they would be similar to the standards used to test Olympic athletes.
Hemmings said its primary purpose would be to help surfers identify any drug or alcohol problems. “That’s the primary purpose of it, and of course, i think all responsible sports are starting to do it now. They do it in the Olympics and they do it in other professional sports, and I thought it would be adequate for surfing, too.”
Some recreational surfers mentioned Kauai professional surfer Andy Irons, whose death was blamed on a combination of heart problems and drug use, including prescription and illegal drugs.
“Oh, Andy Irons,” said Webster Aluli of Kaneohe, who had spent Sunday morning surfing at Jocko’s. “I guess all in all they’re going to have to do a test of some sort.”
According to the ASP, professional surfers are in favor of having the drug tests. Many surfers also said it was a good idea.
“If you’re getting paid and you’re sponsored, I’m sure they’re going to want to know that,” said Aluli.
“Addictions don’t have a demographic. They plague surfers, they plague professional athletes in other sports, they plague people from all races and walks of life. Addiction is a serious problem world wide,” said Hemmings.
Many surfers didn’t want to go on camera, but they did bring up concerns that marijuana is on the list of drugs the ASP tests will look for.