For half a century now the International Surfing Association has been giving surfers from around the world the opportunity to come together in the spirit of aloha and fair competition. It is my distinct honor to preside over the celebration of the ISA’s 50th anniversary. It is also an immense honor to be leading the ISA into the future, hopefully setting up the ISA for another 50 years of success.
In 1964 Midget Farrelly took the inaugural event at the World Surfing Championships in Manly Beach, Australia, setting the stage for five decades of incredible moments and development. From Nat Young’s groundbreaking performance at the ’66 contest in San Diego, to a spry Tom Curren winning the first-ever ISA World Junior Championship, and onward to gold medal performances from current luminaries like Jordy Smith, Julian Wilson, Gabriel Medina, Stephanie Gilmore, Layne Beachley and Sunny Garcia, the performances put forth within the ISA arena have helped define the progression of the sport.
Surfing has come a long way in this half century. For me, 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, eventually graduating to my first surfboard when I was 12, and before I knew it, I was 15 competing in local events. I knew that outside my country there was an organized surfing world. It intrigued me very much.
When a brutal military dictatorship took over Argentina in 1976 they even outlawed surfing. Anyone caught surfing had their board confiscated and they spent the night in jail. That situation, motivated me to create the first national surfing association in Argentina, which I presided over the next six years. Through our efforts we were able to convince the government to lift the ban. This experience shaped my life and convinced me early on, that everybody deserves the right to enjoy the ocean and its waves.
For over 40 years now I have dedicated my time and energy to ensuring that the sport expands in a healthy, responsible way around the world. It’s also imperative that we play an integral role in protecting and preserving our beaches and oceans.
In 1992 I competed in the ISA World Surfing Championship as part of the first ever Argentinean National Surfing team in an ISA event. Two years later I had the opportunity to run for ISA President. Wanting to give back to the sport that had given me so much happiness, I was elected, beginning a journey that would surpass my wildest dreams. Nothing worth doing ever comes easy, and while every step of this adventure has brought me great happiness, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an incredible amount of work.
In 1995, I met with then IOC President Juan Samaranch in Lausanne, Switzerland. We discussed surfing and I presented the iconic Duke Kahanamoku’s dream of seeing it one day accepted as an Olympic sport. He was supportive, but also abundantly clear 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 20 years later surfing is practiced in all continents and we are much closer to becoming an Olympic sport, and surfing is part of many Olympic Movement multisport events around the world.
In 1912, Duke Kahanamoku while receiving the Gold Medal in the 100m Swimming during the Summer Olympics in Stockholm expressed to King Gustav of Sweden and the International Olympic Committee that Surfing belongs in the Olympic Games.
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 even away from the ocean.
As the Governing Body for Surfing, StandUp Paddle Surfing and Racing, 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 and Longboard surfing divisions, StandUp Paddle, Paddleboard, Longboard and Bodyboard. Additionally, the ISA sanctions Kneeboard and Tandem Surfing World Championships 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 also go surfing together.
Fifty years since that first world championship in Australia, the evolution of the ISA continues to change the world in profound ways. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve had a hand in the explosion of Latin American surfing in the last decade. We’re also making a dedicated push to bring wave riding to all corners of Asia and Africa, while continuing to strengthen its development in Europe, Oceania and North America.
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, who 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, and all wanting to pursue our happiness in a peaceful world.
I love and enjoy my work for a better surfing future. I hope you will join me in celebrating the ISA’s 50th anniversary.
Con un fuerte abrazo,
President, International Surfing Association