On Thursday, April 6, the International Surfing Association (ISA) mobilized its 100 Member Nations to celebrate the United Nations’ International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), a unique event that celebrates the power and influence that sport has as a tool for social change, development, and peace.
The ISA activated its members to participate in Peace and Sport’s White Card Campaign, an initiative anchored on IDSDP that encourages athletes to post photos with white cards to symbolize peace and the positive impact that Surfing and StandUp Paddle (SUP) have in their lives.
Surfers from four continents took part in the celebration, sharing stories from Afghanistan, Costa Rica, France, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Panama, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain and the UK about the role that Surfing and SUP is playing in their particular communities.
In Sierra Leone, Surfing played a crucial role in uniting communities after the devastating effects of years of civil war and the Ebola epidemic. Ghana, a country that has recently benefitted from the ISA Scholarship Program, held their first national surf contest in 2015, a large step forward for the development of the sport.
In addition to growth in Africa, Surfing’s positive impact in the Middle East and South Asia was exemplified by surfers in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In India, Surfing and SUP have been rapidly growing, encouraging more youth to get involved in ocean sports and promoting gender equality. India recently fielded a team to compete in their first ISA World Championship, sending two athletes to compete in the 2016 Fiji ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship. Afghanistan has also seen the benefits of Surfing take effect, utilizing their first national championships to bring the surfers of their country together and promote peace.
On top of this, the ISA has committed to using the sport of Surfing to make a positive impact by awarding scholarships to youth surfers in need and training surf and SUP instructors to an international standard to spur grassroots development in both traditional and non-traditional surfing nations around the globe.
The ISA Individual Scholarship was established in 2007 and has awarded more than 300 scholarships worth USD $248,500 to further the education and surfing careers of young surfers in need from over 40 countries. Furthermore, the ISA Coaching Program has certified over 5,000 surf and SUP instructors world-wide, providing a standard for safety, quality and efficacy for the development of the sport in these countries.
ISA President Fernando Aguerre said:
“Surfing is not just a sport, but a tool that can be used to transcend racial and cultural backgrounds to bring people together. From lifting a Surfing ban in Argentina in the 1970’s to witnessing surfers from nations at war united in the ocean, I can personally attest to Surfing’s unique unifying power.
“International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is the perfect platform to highlight Surfing’s power to create positive social change. With Surfing now an Olympic sport, we look forward to continuing to reach non-traditional surfing regions of the world and establishing programs so that they can experience the same happiness and joy that we have all experienced from this beautiful sport.”
To view all the photos of the ISA members that participated in the White Card Campaign, see the full album on the ISA’s Facebook page.