Definition Of Pro And Amateur A Gray Area

Why is it that surfing is different than most other sports when it comes to defining who's pro and who's amateur? In skateboarding, a kid is amateur until he or she gets a deck or shoe named after them. In surfing, kids like Kolohe Andino, Ezekiel Lau, John John Florence, and Luke Davis are getting paid big bucks yet still surfing in amateur contests. Apparently Leonard Lau isn't the only one who's confused…anyone got an answer for us?

Ezekiel Lau

Pro or amateur? Ezekiel Lau is a bit of both…Photo courtesy Honolulu Advertiser

As reported on

Leonard Lau doesn’t quite know how to answer people who inquire about his son Ezekiel’s status as an up-and-coming surfer.

“Every time somebody asks ‘Is he pro yet, or is he still amateur?’ I don’t know what to say,” Leonard said. “He’s still in school, so I guess he’s still amateur. But at the same time, he’s making money because of his surfing. We’re still trying to figure it out.”

The Hawai’i Surfing Association took a step toward simplifying the questionable status of Hawai’i’s young surfers by dropping “Amateur” from its title a year ago. The organization was previously called the Hawai’i Amateur Surfing Association.

Despite the change, the goal of the HSA remains the same — preparing Hawai’i’s young surfers for a potential career in surfing.

The HSA’s Hard Rock Cafe Hawai’i State Championships started yesterday at Ala Moana Bowls, and surfers like Ezekiel Lau showed why companies are willing to put money into youth surf contests and youth surfers.

Ezekiel is 15 and just completed his freshman year at Kamehameha Schools. Last month, he won $5,000 at a junior pro contest in California.

“It’s like a big business, and sometimes we struggle with it,” Leonard said. “For a long time, we didn’t know what he could and couldn’t take.”

Leonard and Daina (Baldwin) are former athletes at the University of Hawai’i. Leonard was a football player and Daina was a volleyball player in the late 1980s.

“We couldn’t even accept a dinner back then,” Leonard said. “So to see my son get all this stuff handed to him … we realize surfing is just a different sport with different rules, and he’s been fortunate enough to win some.”