Tiffany Rabacal-Harper had never touched a surfboard when she first started tandem surfing in 2001. But that didn’t matter to her recruiters who knew she was an ideal candidate for the sport – petite, agile, and trained in dance, cheerleading, and gymnastics.
Thus began the start of an exhilarating ride. In a decade-long run, Rabacal-Harper devoted countless hours to the sport and steadily earned world championship titles. In 2013, with multiple awards under her belt, she felt it was the right time to retire from competitions and teach others instead.
Today as the co-president of the International Tandem Surfing Association (ITSA), Rabacal-Harper helps budding tandem surfers find the resources they need to succeed.
“We always encourage a new team to reach out to us. We can help them get trained safely, use the proper technique, and meet other tandem surfers in their area. It’s a niche sport and we help tie it all together,” Rabacal-Harper said.
Tiffany Rabacal-Harper with former tandem partner Chuck Inman. Photo credit: Robbie Santanello.
Competitive tandem surfers are typically opposite-sex partners that orchestrate lifts and poses on a single surfboard. Most are already experienced surfers and dancers, but many will further their skillset by training with acrobats.
It’s also a sport that requires a great amount of trust. “Your tandem partner is kind of like your second husband or wife – you need a physical and personality match,” said Rabacal-Harper, with a laugh.
If you’re interested in seeing the action live, look no further than this week’s Duke’s OceanFest events, which honor the legacy of surfing pioneer Duke Kahanamoku.
As part of the festival, the ITSA Waikiki Tandem Pro will be held all-day Thursday at Kuhio Beach Park. About a dozen tandem teams are expected to participate, with the top four securing an invitation to the ITSA World Championship of Tandem Surfing in December.