The roots of surfing reach back to the early Pacific Islands when the ancestors of Polynesians and others started exploring the ocean and islands around them. While there is no specific date as to when the first wave was ever surfed, it is generally known that by the 1700s, Hawaiians had begun to amaze foreign sailors and explorers with their wave-riding skills.
Surfing continued to develop in Hawaii and gained international importance in the 1900’s when the famous Hawaiian surfer, Duke Kahanamoku, won the Gold Medal for swimming in the 1912 Olympic Games. Within the context of public relations, an exhibition tour featuring Duke was organized throughout the world, which enabled many countries to be exposed to surfing. As a result, surfing grew in popularity, and in 1964 during the first World Surfing Championship at Manly, Australia, the ISF (International Surfing Federation) was created, with Peruvian Eduardo Arena as President. This association gathered all the surfing nations together and began organizing world championships. In November 1976, in Hawaii, the ISF gave way to the ISA (International Surfing Association).
From 1976 until 2002, the ISA ran the World Championship every other year. The first year in which the World Championship included a Juniors division was 1980 in Biarritz, France, won by legendary surfer Tom Curren from the USA. With the continuing growth of surfing worldwide, as well as in junior surfing performance and participation, in 2002 the ISA wisely decided to hold the Junior division of what was then called the ISA World Surfing Games in its very own annual event. The former Junior division of the World Surfing Games, along with what used to be the annual Quiksilver ISA World Grommet titles, was consolidated into a new event, the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championship, which was first hosted in 2003 in South Africa and held yearly since.
In 2007, the ISA separated the Masters from the ISA World Surfing Games and created the ISA World Masters Surfing Championship, which has been held every year since except in 2009.
Because of the growing popularity around the world of StandUp Paddle and Paddleboard, the ISA held the inaugural ISA World StandUp Paddle and Paddleboard Championship in 2012 in Peru, which will be held annually.
The ISA World Bodyboard Championship was launched in 2011 in the Canaray Islands, Spain and has been held every year since.
To expand the sport into the world’s most populous country, the ISA launched the Hainan Wanning Riyue Bay International Surfing Festival in 2012 with a historic partnership with Womei Advertising, one of China’s largest media conglomerates. The Festival, included two events, the ISA China Cup, a National Teams event, and the Hainan Classic, a 4-Star Men’s ASP event on the pro-tour. This was the first event collaboration between the ISA and the Association of Surfing Professionals, ASP. The ISA will be holding the Surfing Festival every year.
The ISA World Longboad Championship will be held for the first time in 2013 in Peru.
Since 1996, the Sands of the World Ceremony has been held during the Opening Ceremony of all ISA World Championships plus the Surfing Festival in China, to symbolize the true fraternal spirit that bonds together all members of the global surfing tribe. The union of the countries of the world in this Ceremony is symbolized through the mixing of the sands from the shores of all participating delegations, showcasing the ISA hopes for a better and peaceful world.
Fernando Aguerre was first elected as the ISA President in 1994 and has been reelected 7 times and continues to serve as ISA Presidente. During his tenure as ISA President, Aguerre has introduced new World Championships, set a path to achieve the Duke Kahanamoku’s dream of Olympic Surfing, expanded the delivery of educational courses globally, developed the ISA Scholarship Program in 2007 and continues his volunteer work with the ISA for a better surfing future.
To this day, the ISA is the World’s Governing Authority, as recognized by the International Olympic Commitee for all waveriding sports, including Surfing, StandUp Paddle, Paddleboard, Longboard, Bodyboard, Kneeboard, Tandem Surfing, Skimboard and Bodysurfing. The ISA governs these sports and works for their development in its Member Nations and the establishment of the sport of surfing in new countries.
The ISA will continue to promote its World Championship events as the true “Olympics” of surfing. By awarding Gold, Silver, Bronze and Copper medals, to National Team and individual champions, the athletes compete for the honor to represent their countries and national colors, in the true nature of surfing’s aloha spirit and fair play.