Last Thursday, November 19, ISA President Fernando Aguerre met in Lausanne, Switzerland, with the highest authority of the Sports World, Mr. Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President. Also in attendance was IOC Sports Director, Mr. Christophe Dubi. Surfing chances for Olympic Games inclusion was part of the agenda.
Over 15 years ago Aguerre started his quest to get Surfing into the world most important sporting event. Surfing was one of the most attractive sports on the Asian Beach Games (Bali, 2008). Surfing will be featured in the South American Beach Games (Uruguay, December 2009). For the third time in a row Surfing was part of the Bolivarian Games. Also, some other Action Sports like BMX and Snowboarding were added to the Sports Program in the last ten years.
ISA President arriving at IOC Headquarters in Lausanne
I’m reasonably optimistic- says Aguerre in the following interview: “I like to walk, before we run… The ISA and surfing are walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”
Part of the good news is the recent advances in the Wave Parks technology. Man-made waves of the future, will replicate the ones on a good day in the ocean.
The ISA World Surfing News interviewed Aguerre right after his return to California.
What was your agenda for the meeting?
I wanted to provide Mr. Rogge an update on the activities of the ISA and discuss surfing’s interest for inclusion in the Olympic Program. Most importantly I wanted to provide him an update on the development of man-made wave technologies, a key piece of surfing’s potential inclusion in the Summer Games.
How did the meeting go?
Mr. Rogge welcomed me in Spanish, which he speaks very fluently. We were joined by IOC Sports Director, Mr. Christophe Dubi. I started by presenting him with a signed copy of The Surfing Yearbook, published by Surfersvillage. I also brought rare copies of photos of the Duke Kahanamoku, father of modern surfing and a multiple gold and silver medalist in the Olympic Games. He was aware who the Duke was and enjoyed looking at the photos.
Could you please provide us some information of the content of the meeting?
I started with an update on the ISA’s efforts to develop the sport around the world, inclusive of the ISA World Championships. I then showed him a video about recent developments about man-made waves. The meeting was very cordial. I answered several questions. I also asked him about requisites for surfing to be included in the short list for the 2020 Olympic Program. He explained the main points of the criteria: Universality and visibility of our sport, having
IOC and ISA flags side by side, marking visiting ISA President
an excellent judging program, and keeping the cost of man-made waves reasonable. I believe surfing excels in all three areas. Mr. Dubi then talked about the details of the process to be started in 2010. He was very candid and explained that without man-made waves, surfing has very low chances for inclusion. Having those waves in operation will certainly change surfing’s chances for inclusion.
Was Mr. Rogge well informed about Surfing?
Mr. Rogge seemed very well informed about Surfing and the ISA.
What are your thoughts after the meeting?
I left the meeting happy to see that Mr. Rogge is an open-minded person, very practical, and obviously a great leader. He did not tell us “no chance”. I believe surfing’s chances will completely improve after waves of the surfing contest level become operational. This is something that the ISA expects to happen in the second part of 2010.
The IOC has already included other action sports: Snowboarding in 1998, BMX in 2008, and was considering the inclusion of skateboarding under the tutelage of the International Cycling Union for London 2012. I believe the leaders of the IOC are open-minded about the inclusion of surfing and skateboarding, two leading action sports. These are cool sports, tightly connected to the youth of the whole world. We are talking about tens of millions of participants and hundreds of millions of lifestyle followers. Very few Olympic sports can provide this type of fans´ support and this tight connection to the hearts of the youth around the world.
The IOC has precise rules for inclusion. I’m sure if we pass those hurdles, including reasonably priced man-made waves, we will be looking at a completely different scenario for inclusion. But I like to walk before we run. The ISA and surfing are walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
Are we going to see Surfing in the Olympics?
I’m firmly convinced that given the current developments, surfing today has a stronger chance to be in the Olympic Games. I know that all good things in life take hard work, consistency, passion and resourcefulness. We are committed to work in such a way.
Surfing is a great sport with a huge appeal to youth and is totally universal in geographical, socio economic, ethnical and age terms. Both genders have embraced the sport. Our judging criteria is clear, precise and very well developed. TV and the Internet love surfing. Surfing has produced some of the most dedicated and credible humanitarian and environmental organizations. Man-made waves are going to be in place in the short term (less than two years).
Knowing the strict IOC rules for inclusion, when do you think we’re going to see surfers surfing for Olympic gold?
I would like to continue to work towards inclusion in the Olympic Program as per the IOC rules, instead of engaging in making forecasts about when it will be included. I leave that for other people. I’m paddling hard, focused on the wave and the ride… Surfing teaches us to focus on impeccable execution of what we do at any given time. For surfers, focusing on the wave is what we enjoy the best, both in real and metaphorical ways. This is what I’m doing right now.
The International Surfing Association (ISA), founded in 1964, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for Surfing, StandUp Paddle (SUP) Racing and Surfing, Bodysurfing, Wakesurfing, and all other wave riding activities on any type of waves, and on flat water using wave riding equipment. The ISA crowned its first Men’s and Women’s World Champions in 1964. It crowned the first Big Wave World Champion in 1965; World Junior Champion in 1980; World Kneeboard Champions in 1982; World Longboard Surfing and World Bodyboard Champions in 1988; World Tandem Surfing Champions in 2006; World Masters Champions in 2007; and World StandUp Paddle (SUP) and Paddleboard Champions in 2012.
ISA membership includes the surfing National Governing Bodies of 100 countries on five continents. Its headquarters are located in La Jolla, California. It is presided over by Fernando Aguerre (Argentina), first elected President in 1994 in Rio de Janeiro. The ISA’s four Vice-Presidents are Karín Sierralta (PER), Kirsty Coventry (ZIM), Casper Steinfath (DEN) and Barbara Kendall (NZL).