ISA Reinforces its Continued and Historical Governance of StandUp Paddle (SUP), while Reaffirming its Commitment to Resolve Governance Dispute through the Court of Arbitration

Posted - News Posted for ISA News, World Surfing News.

Following recent media reports, the International Surfing Association (ISA) has today set out further key details to address misinformation about the governance of StandUp Paddle (SUP), including claims by the International Canoe Federation (ICF) that they are acting out of the best interests of the athletes.  

ISA Vice-President Casper Steinfath en route to earning Gold in the 200m Sprint at the 2017 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship in his home of Denmark. Photo: ISA / Ben Reed

ISA Vice-President Casper Steinfath en route to earning Gold in the 200m Sprint at the 2017 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship in his home of Denmark. Photo: ISA / Ben Reed

At the same time, the ISA further reaffirmed its full commitment to having the ongoing question of the international governance of SUP put before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

ISA President, Fernando Aguerre, has issued the following statement:

“The ISA has, without question, a clearly defined history and tradition for governing StandUp Paddle, dating back to 2008 when the sport was first included as a core discipline in the ISA Guide. Since that time, no other IF has governed SUP in any capacity. We find the claims by the ICF to the contrary to be disingenuous, at best. As a matter of fact, the ICF has yet to organize any world championship or even international SUP events. These are factual, historical and on the record matters.

“We also must question the ICF’s true commitment to the interest of the athletes practicing SUP.  Contrary to their denials, if it were not for interventions by ICF, SUP would have been included in the sports programme of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. We had a great plan, an amazing venue and we had been in advanced discussions with the Buenos Aires organizers and the IOC Sports Department, but the ICF’s objections caused all that momentum to be lost.  

“In doing so, the ICF deprived young athletes from around the world the opportunity on the world’s greatest youth sporting stage and thus fundamentally prevented the development of SUP.  

“Since 2010, the ISA has heavily invested time and resource into StandUp Paddle, both in terms of events and education. The ISA has cumulatively committed over $5 million in the sport, a figure which doesn’t include the work done at a national level by ISA National Federations. Until November 2016, no financial (or otherwise) investment by any other IF into SUP had taken place.”

“In addition, the ISA has been the sole and exclusive organiser of the only SUP World Championships since 2012, building year-on-year an event that in 2017 welcomed 286 athletes from a record 42 countries. During these six years, no other IF has organised any SUP World Championship. Alongside the World Championship, the ISA has been the governing body for SUP promoting and securing the inclusion of SUP in the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima. Since 2012 several South and Central America multisport Games, organized by regional organizations of National Olympic Committees, included both SUP Surfing and SUP Racing as medal sports under the authority of the ISA. Again, this is a matter of undisputed public record.

“The ISA also officially sanctions the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals World Tour, the sport’s only global professional tour. Importantly, the APP recognises and acknowledges the ISA as the sole worldwide governing body for SUP. 

“As is clear, the ISA is the real long-standing sole governing body for StandUp Paddle, and has existed as such without interference or objection for a decade. It is a shame, and a detriment to all involved in the sport, that this governance has been challenged by the ICF. Enough is enough, and we now feel it is important to set the record straight with verifiable facts, something that the ICF recent press releases completely lack.

“Contrary to what has been reported recently by the ICF, the ISA has continued to propose clear and reasonable solutions throughout the ongoing situation. In November 2017, we set out in writing a fair and constructive framework to ICF which would have distinguished the two IFs’ roles while giving ICF a well-defined scope of activity given their newfound interest in the discipline. We basically proposed that ICF run their Stand Up Canoe Racing, since that is exactly where they classified SUP in their late 2016 Congress, as a subcategory of Canoe. For the ICF, SUP racing was essentially a type of canoe.  It was a pity that our proposals were summarily rejected by the ICF, who instead chose to undermine the mediation process. We have always sought to engage and communicate with ICF to achieve a positive outcome for SUP – but ICF seems to have little interest in finding a reasonable solution. 

“The ICF has also not respected a process agreed with the IOC, including refusing to accept that the fundamental question of governance – a question which all the stakeholders are eager to answer – is put before CAS Arbitration. Instead, the ICF is proposing that the only subject of discussion at CAS Arbitration be the legal basis of an IF’s exclusivity to govern a sport. The ISA is ready and eager to take this question to CAS, as agreed with the IOC, but our petition to ICF’s lawyers has now gone unanswered since May 2nd. These facts have never been mentioned by the ICF in any of their SUP related communications.

“In the absence of an agreed solution, we are convinced that the ICF should accept our request to go to CAS, so we can progress to a resolution in the interests of all, and most importantly, the athletes and competitors that take part across the world. Ultimately, they are the ones who suffer.

”In the end, the facts surrounding this dispute will speak for themselves and, we believe, will demonstrate to CAS and the wider Olympic Movement, the ISA’s true history of leadership, commitment and development of SUP.”

Danish four-time SUP World Champion and ISA Vice President, Casper Steinfath, added:

“As someone competing in StandUp Paddle at an elite level most of my life, and having represented the sport as a global athlete, I can say without hesitation that the ISA has been and remains the sole governing body for SUP. From a personal point of view, it has been saddening and frustrating to see an organization without any history or culture in the sport challenge the ISA after all the work the federation has done to grow the sport around the world.

“As a member of the ISA’s Executive Committee and Athletes’ Commission, I know that the ISA has made a considerable effort and put forward reasonable proposals to help find a resolution, and it is again disappointing to see these willfully disregarded. I’m hopeful of a swift resolution so that the athletes can focus once more on a clear competitive pathway on an international level in the best interests of the growth and development of the sport worldwide.

“It’s also frustrating and confusing to the athletes to see the ICF organizing a so-called World Championship without any history or experience in the sport.  As far as I know and based on the elite athletes with whom I compete and interact with on a daily basis, no one is taking this event seriously.”

About The International Surfing Association:
The International Surfing Association (ISA), founded in 1964, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for Surfing. The ISA governs and defines Surfing as Shortboard, Longboard & Bodyboarding, 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, both surfing and racing) and Paddleboard Champions in 2012.

ISA membership includes the surfing National Governing Bodies of 104 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).