My passion for wave riding started when I was very young, while growing up in Mar del Plata, Argentina. I started with a wooden belly-board followed by styrofoam ones. By the time my brother and I got our first surfboard (I was 12), while surfing was very small in Argentina, it became an important part of my life really fast.
I would spend hours and hours in the water surfing some fun South Atlantic waves and before I knew it, I was 15 and even surfing in local events. I knew that outside my country there was an organized surfing world and it intrigued me very much.
But dark times came when the military took over the government and started a nasty dictatorship in 1976. A year later, surfing became prohibited in Argentina and if you were caught surfing, your board would be taken away and you were going to spend the night in jail. I spent a lot of time trying to communicate and deal with the bureaucracy of the military government to let them know that surfing was an amazing sport, that it was professional in other places, and that it was a great activity. After almost one year of efforts, including the founding of the first surfing association, with me as president, and the organizing of a strong marketing campaign to support my efforts, I was able to convince them to lift the ban and everybody was able to go back to the water.
I love surfing and it has been an integral part of my life for over 40 years. I have dedicated much of myself to ensuring that the sport expands in a healthy way around the world in addition to protecting our beaches and oceans.
After moving to southern California in 1984, one of surfing’s epicenters, I was able to see how influential the sport was and, more importantly, its potential as a force for a better world. After competing in the ISA World Championship in 1992, in 1994, I ran for president and was elected. I wanted to give back to the sport that had given me so much happiness. While I am a dreamer, I have my feet firmly on the ground. I knew there was a lot of work ahead of me, but doing it was and is part of my happiness.
In 1995, I met with IOC President Juan Samaranch in Lausanne, Switzerland. We talked about surfing and my dream for Olympic surfing. He was supportive while also letting me know that it was going to be a long road. We were a small organization back then with a limited structure and lots of things to be done. I’m happy to say that almost 20 years later, surfing is practiced in all continents and we are much closer to becoming an Olympic sport.
With over 35 million surfers in more than 100 countries, it is irrefutable that surfing and its culture are part of the daily lives of people all over the world. You don’t need to go to California or Australia to be a witness of the “surfing lifestyle” having developed strong roots all over, even in landlocked countries.
Currently there are many private organizations developing man made waves that will allow our sport to be practiced away from the ocean.
As the Governing Body for surfing and all wave riding activities in the world and being recognized by the International Olympic Committee, the ISA organizes the World Championships for the Junior, Open, Masters, StandUp Paddle, Paddleboard and Longboard surfing disciplines. Additionaly, the ISA sanctions Kneeboard, Bodyboard and Tandem surfing disciplines on a yearly basis.
Each event brings together the top athletes of the world with diverse nationalities, languages, religions, and races, all in a peaceful Olympic-style atmosphere. By doing this, the ISA has become a leader in bringing peace to the world. As I like to say, maybe our government leaders should go surfing together.
I’m honored to lead the ISA in the contributing to our grain of sand for a better world by working for a better surfing future. At the ISA, we bring an enjoyable activity to the people of the world, one that requires no investments in courts, fields, tracks or stadiums, and very small investments in equipment.
This peculiarity of surfing’s low development cost has helped the ISA expand the sport in the developing world. The explosion of Latin American surfing in the last decade is proof of the success of this project as well as our recent push in Asia and Africa.
As we see more surfers, we see a better world. A world made of people who know how to take care of their natural resources, that enjoy the ride of life, that know that in front of the immensity of the oceans, we are all just human beings with much in common all wanting to pursue our happiness in a peaceful world.
I love and enjoy my work for a better future. I hope you will join me in this worthwhile and passionate path.
Con un fuerte abrazo,
President, International Surfing Association