The sounds of celebration were heard from the shores of Hawaii all the way to the waves of Tahiti as the two island regions came together Thursday to officially recognize the partnership of World Surf League (WSL) Hawaii and Tahiti Nui.
During the opening ceremony of the Billabong Pro Tahiti, stop No. 7 on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour (CT), a proclamation sent by Hawaii's Governor, David Ige, was presented to French Polynesia's President, Edouard Fritch. The Minister of Tourism, Jean-Christophe Bouissou, accepted the document and established August 18 as World Surf League Hawaii and Tahiti Nui Official Partnership Day.
The proclamation recognizes Hawaii and Tahiti Nui's connection, which dates back to centuries of Pacific Ocean migration and the fact that both regions share an ocean-based lifestyle and the Polynesian sport of surfing.
"2016 is an exceptional year because of the partnership of Hawaii and Tahiti Nui in the world of professional surfing," said Bouissou. "The ocean separates us, but finally this special day links us together. This link that we share through Polynesian culture will be stronger today with this official proclamation."
Hawaii and Tahiti Nui are also mutually known as having some of the most powerful and esteemed waves in the world, anchored in their cultures through a shared ancestral lineage. Surfing was a revered pastime for the ancient Polynesians. Waves like Pipeline in Hawaii and Teahupo‘o in Tahiti attest to the true courage and skill that those ancestors passed down to today's Polynesian surfers. Both nations are cornerstones to surfing's history, as well as its future.
As a new combined region -- now known as Hawaii/Tahiti Nui -- the islands join forces to honor and respect the ocean, protect it for future generations, and serve as stewards for the environment. Preservation continues to be a vital initiative for WSL and with this new partnership, it becomes of equal importance to Tahiti Nui as well.
"It is powerful to see the culture and spirit of Polynesia alive and well here today," said WSL Hawaii-Tahiti Nui General Manager Jodi Wilmott, who presented the proclamation.
"Teahupo‘o and Pipeline are two of the most respected waves on the planet, and are a testament to the quality of surfers WSL has within this newly partnered region. We are so grateful to present this proclamation today and sincerely thank Governor Ige for recognizing the importance of what the WSL Hawaii-Tahiti Nui region represents."
Today's ceremony was a cultural celebration focused on unity, Polynesian roots and the ancient sport of surfing. Tahitian dancing, traditional live music and welcome speeches from both WSL and Tahiti Nui members took place on the shores of Teahupo‘o with some of the world's top professional surfers in attendance, including Hawaii's John John Florence and Tahiti Nui's Michel Bourez.
The Billabong Pro Tahiti event window runs from August 19 - 30, 2016 and is streaming live daily on the WSL website and app.