Column: NSSA Jr. surfing program goes on ‘hiatus’
You know how the smell or taste of certain foods will trigger particular memories?
For me, it’s a cheese quesadilla. Just some cheese inside a folded up tortilla, heated over a portable propane grill. Maybe a little Tapatio sauce to spice it up a bit. And of course, you eat one at 7 a.m., then maybe again at 7:45. My mouth is watering now.
Many of you have no idea what I’m talking about, but there are a few who do. The last few years, those quesadillas were indeed the breakfast of champions for those kids (and their parents) who surfed in the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. Jr. competitions, primarily in Huntington Beach.
Paul Morrow was the guy inside the tent, whipping up the quesadillas while also adding up the scores on the heat sheets, passing out the jerseys, and politely asking the free-surfers over the loudspeaker to paddle out of the competition zone.
The NSSA Jr. competitions have been the little brother to the much more competitive NSSA, but that is not to say the NSSA Jr. hasn’t had impressive surfing and impressive surfers.
But as the years have passed, more and more competitors have explored other options, not only within the NSSA, but also with the Western Surfing Assn. And there always seems to be a random surf contest going on locally.
And now unfortunately, the NSSA Jr. is out of cheese. Morrow sent out an email to surfers and their parents last week, saying the NSSA Jr. will not host the surf series next year after a 26-year run.
“All of us at the NSSA Jr. thoroughly enjoyed providing our series to you, watching you grow in your surfing skills and getting to know each of you as individuals!” Morrow wrote in his email. “As you know, the NSSA Jr. has been in existence over the past 26 years with many of our competitors going on to amazing careers in the sport of surfing, the surfing industry and in many other professions as well.
“Unfortunately, the numbers of competitors in our series has been decreasing over the past few years. We have been unable to generate financial support from sponsors and feel uncomfortable raising the costs to participate in our surfing series. Many of you have attempted to help, provided ideas for us on growing our series and all of that has been greatly appreciated. However, the bottom line has not changed and our savings have now dwindled to a point that we can no longer supplement the costs to continue.”
NSSA executive director Janice Aragon, however, was quick to call it a “hiatus,” and not the “end” to the NSSA Jr. program.
“Sometimes programs and/or conferences within the organization are put into a pause so we can rethink the strategy moving forward,” Aragon said in an email. “So an article being written about NSSA Jr. ‘ending’ is very premature and not entirely true. Any program within the NSSA can be brought back. … And of course, we would like to thank Paul for his service and contributions to the NSSA, the NSSA Jr. and the sport of surfing over the years!”
Quite simply, it’s about the money. There are the increased operating costs, including getting permits for the beach at the comp sites as well as insurance. And donations from the surf industry and other organizations have dwindled.
Morrow did not want to be interviewed for this story, true to his nature, preferring to focus on the 26 good years and all the kids that have come through the program. Not a surprise, considering Morrow was a longtime teacher and educator, including time as principal at Sowers Middle School and Marina High.
He was also quick to thank Aragon and Gayline Clifford, the director of NSSA’s Southwest and Northwest conferences, for their ongoing support over the years.
And if somehow, some way, a big surf industry company decides to step up and help out a worthwhile program, Morrow certainly will be ready to fire up the grill and get those quesadillas going again.
JOE HAAKENSON is a Huntington Beach-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.