Surfing’s Path Towards Olympic Inclusion

The dream of Olympic Surfing started with Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic Gold Medalist in swimming and native Hawaiian known as the father of modern Surfing. Duke first presented his dream at the 1912 Summer Olympic Games in Stockholm, where he expressed his wish to the International Olympic Committee to see Surfing included in the Games.

Blake_Duke1Duke Kahanamoku.

More than a century later, the ISA continues to pursue the Duke’s dream.

Fernando Aguerre, a member of Argentina’s National Surfing Team, was elected President of the ISA in 1994. In 1995, shortly after being elected, Aguerre met with the then IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he made it clear that the inclusion of Surfing in the Olympic Games would be a strategic priority for the ISA.

Since that meeting in Lausanne, the ISA has taken great steps forward both in the global development of the sport and in edging closer to Olympic inclusion, with the ultimate goal of spreading the joy of Surfing to all corners of the world. With 32 Member Nations in 1995, the ISA has now grown to 100 Members and counting, reaching non-traditional surfing markets such as Iran, Sierra Leone, and Russia to name a few.

Despite several unsuccessful attempts to promote Surfing’s inclusion into the Games through the first decades of Aguerre’s mandate, the ISA President persisted and pushed forward and in 2014, the ISA was given a new breath of life under the new leadership of IOC President Thomas Bach. Bach brought a new vision to the Olympics, realizing the need to add youthful, vibrant sports. The door was opened for 26 sports, which included Surfing and SUP, to apply for inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Games, an opportunity that was ecstatically welcomed by the ISA.

Two years later, having been recommended by Tokyo 2020 and supported by the IOC Executive Board, Surfing is on the last stretch towards inclusion, closer than it has ever been. The final vote is set to be decided at the 129th IOC Session on August 3rd at the Summer Olympics in Rio.

Opening-Ceremony_Juniors-2012_Panama-copyOpening Ceremony at the 2012 ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.

This wave of success has also been accompanied by the inclusion of Surfing and SUP Racing in other major multi-sport games, such as the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, the 2017 Central American Games in Managua, Nicaragua, and the World Beach Games in San Diego, USA. SUP, which was included on the proposal to Tokyo 2020, was not recommended for the Olympic Sports Program, however the ISA still remains optimistic and will push for SUP’s inclusion in the 2024 Games.

Over a century of work that started with the Duke’s dream is closer than ever. Surfing is sitting on the doorstep of the Olympic Games, on the verge of a monumental decision. Surfing is ready to embrace the Olympics and take its inspiration, love and passion to the world’s greatest sporting stage.