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Brothers ride waves to surfing success (w/video)

By Taylor Mitchell
July 5, 2014 at 2:05 a.m.

Brothers Hank Cunningham IV, 14, left, and Dallas Cunningham, 12, right, pose with their boards after surfing at Bob Hall Pier at Padre Balli Park.  Hank finished second in the boys division, and Dallas was first in the mini-groms division of the Texas Gulf Surfing Association state championships.

Hank Cunningham IV's reaction to being invited to the National Scholastic Surfing Association championships was like most other young teenagers who receive good news.

"I was jumping up and down, running around the house," Cunningham, 14, said. "I think that was the most exciting time of my life, when I found out I qualified."

But Hank wasn't alone. His younger brother, Dallas, 12, was also invited to compete in the national competition in Huntington Beach, Calif. The brothers were unable to attend, but it's still a huge honor to them.

"Many kids in the world want to qualify for nationals that are surfers," Dallas said. "I'm one of those kids."

To qualify for the NSSA competition, the brothers first had to qualify for the Texas Gulf Surfing Association state championships. Not only would they qualify, but they'd also have an impressive showing at Bob Hall Pier on North Padre Island.

Before the state competition began, though, the brothers already had one accomplishment wrapped up.

Dallas and Hank were the highest-ranked brothers in their respective divisions headed into the state competition in early June.

"We get to go out together and just have fun," Hank said. He also said there wasn't a big rivalry with his brother. "Not really, since we're in different divisions. But if we were, we would have."

Dallas won the state title in the mini-groms division for the year. He took second in the state finals, which gave him enough points to claim the state championship.

"The whole year, you have to try and rack up points," Dallas said. "Finally, I won it, and now, it's like a weight off of my shoulders."

In the semifinals round of the state championship, Dallas didn't have as good of a performance as he would've liked.

"I did kind of crappy," he admitted.

But in a surfing competition, all it takes is one good wave to change the standings.

"I got lucky and caught one good wave in the finals," Dallas said. "That is what pushed me through."

Hank fell short of winning the state championship in the boys division - he was 208 points behind the leader in the final standings - but he still received an honor every surfer would like to have.

He was named to the All-Star surfing team and will represent Texas in competitions in other states.

"It was cool. I was mostly just excited and happy that I made it. I didn't think I would," Hank said. "It means they're going to pay for me to go on a trip for about a week to California or somewhere on the East coast."

The awards and honors both brothers received are the reward for the hard work they've put in since they first stood on a board about six years ago.

Both Hank and Dallas got started in a very simple fashion. A family friend just began pushing them on waves. From there, the natural progression from laying down to standing up started.

"I like everything about it," Hank said. "You just have to let the wave push you around. It's a lot of fun."

"It's just the feel of the wave whenever you're going down the face," Dallas said about what he enjoys the most about surfing. "It's just energizing."

Surfing energizes more than just the present for the Cunningham brothers. It's energized them for the future. Both want to travel to exotic locations and maybe even become professional surfers.

But for now, the young teenagers will enjoy the fun of surfing.

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