In early March, at the invitation of the convention’s producers, the ISA sent a representative to Mali, Africa, to deliver a presentation to an audience of national sports delegates at the Africa International Sports Convention (CISA). Marcos “Bukao” Esmanhoto, the ISA’s Contest Director and an Executive Committee member, made a 30-minute presentation outlining the ISA’s efforts to develop surfing throughout the continent. Upon its completion, he received a resounding applause from the roomful of representatives from each of the continent’s 53 countries.
The presentation touched on the potential social and economic implications of having a blossoming surf scene throughout the continent of Africa. Using a comprehensive breakdown of the surf industry landscape as substance for how and where the sport can grow in Africa, the message was sent that the sky is the limit.
“We know how important and essential surfing is in our own lives, but there are also greater social and economic implications for having surfing being a part of a culture,” said Fernando Aguerre, the president of the ISA. “It’s long been a dream of mine to spread surfing to every corner of the globe. When you see a place like Africa, a place with so many good waves and so many people living near the ocean, you can tell that there is a place for Africa in the surfing world. It’s a very worthwhile goal.”
When Aguerre became president and chairman of the ISA in 1994, the organization had just above 30 member nations. He radically altered the face and action of the ISA, aiming to grow its impact and recognition throughout the world. Today, the ISA has 70 member nations, eight of which are from Africa.
“We’re not happy with those numbers,” said Aguerre, referring to the small percentage of member nations from Africa. “We plan on focusing some of our limited resources on Africa. We want to help Africa to surf.”
Part of the presentation to CISA included the goal to raise the number of ISA member nations on the continent from eight to 15 by the end of 2013. The ISA also hopes to raise its total number of member nations around the world to 100 within that same timeframe.
Currently, Cape Verde, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia and South Africa are member nations of the ISA.
Aguerre’s dream for surfing also includes its inclusion in future Olympic Games. Part of making that dream a reality requires expanding the presence of surfing in the athletic landscape around the globe. In recent years, the ISA’s focus has been on spreading surfing in Latin America and Asia. Numerous contests have been held throughout Latin America, including the inaugural ISA World StandUp Paddle and Paddleboard Championship last month in Peru and the upcoming ISA World Junior Surfing Championship in Panama in April.
Just a few months ago, in January, the ISA created and produced the largest surfing competition ever on the continent of Asia, the Hainan Wanning Riyue Bay International Surfing Festival Presented by Quiksilver. The two-event festival included the inaugural ISA China Cup and the Hainan Classic, an ASP Men’s
“The ISA has shown that it’s serious in its mission: We’re always working toward a better surfing future. Spreading surfing in Africa is just another step in the materialization of that hope and dream,” Aguerre said. “We’ve seen the good that surfing can do in 70 countries so far. We only hope to spread some of those positive vibes to as many new places as possible.”
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).