This article first appeared on Inside the Games.
For most of us, these are strange and difficult times as we are limited in social interaction and outdoor activity. I’ve spent my entire life outdoors, near or in the ocean – so I’ve found myself daydreaming about the day I can return to the waves that I love. But on the other side, it has been heartwarming to see people caring for one another, looking after their families, the most vulnerable and their communities – by staying at home or keeping apart when the authorities asked us to.
During this lockdown, I found myself reflecting on the messages I want to share with the world. Now is the time for solidarity. To pause for thought. For thinking kindly about, and supporting our friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens of the world.
As a surfer, I miss the waves as much as anybody. And just as I and many others have fought to protect the oceans, we must now work together to protect each other. This coronavirus not only highlights how fragile our existence is and the power of mother nature – but also how interconnected our lives are. It is through our collective community effort, showing kindness and selflessness, and having inner strength, patience and courage – that we can beat this virus and return to normal life, and the oceans we love.
Take advantage of these times. Build a deeper connection with your family, listen to music, sing, dance, read, cook, or simply explore your soul and mind. So, while humanity heals, the planet also heals from the many wounds that we have caused, and we think about improving the way we treat Mother Earth. Yes, each of us is at home and separated from many loved ones, but we are all in this fight together. And we will prevail.
The ISA is using this time to share positive experiences with the surfers and fans. We created a talk show on the State of Olympic Surfing and are sharing clips of all the cool ways surfers have been keeping themselves busy, entertained and healthy whilst at home. It has been great to see so many athletes and fans of surfing making the most of the current situation and giving hope and encouragement to everyone else also who is stuck at home whilst surf competitions have been suspended.
As we move closer to the return of competitive sport, live events will undoubtably have to adapt to the new reality of a post-coronavirus world. It is still unclear how spectator sports may look in the near future, but it is very difficult to see how crowds of fans will be allowed into stadia and structured venues anytime soon. Surfing, by its very nature, can flourish in the open, natural environment where social distancing and other key health measures can be implemented. So, even with a cautious, safety-first approach, surfing can offer hope. As our athletes return to the water, we can help boost the morale of sports fans seeking live action and help to kick-start those coastal economies that have endured lockdown so patiently.
I think back to when I started my journey with the ISA more than 26 years ago and all the barriers we have faced and overcome. They say, “ignorance is a blessing”. And in some ways, I was blessed to be ignorant of the huge obstacles I was facing to achieve Olympic Surfing! We faced many setbacks in our long paddle to join the Games and achieve our Olympic dream. Along the way, there were many who believed it would never happen. But we persisted. We stayed true to the vision started by Duke Kahanamoku 100 years before.
And now, even with the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games, we will continue to believe and paddle for our collective future.
There are always lessons to be learned, even in these dark times. We should never abandon hope. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Just think back to a little while ago when it was difficult to see an end to this pandemic crisis. But now, even against the greatest odds, many countries have now started to turn the tide on the virus. If the world works together, including surfers, fans and the whole sporting community, we will beat this. And when we return to the sea, life will be even more beautiful than ever, and our passion for waves and clean oceans will be stronger than ever.
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, Para 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; World StandUp Paddle (SUP, both surfing and racing) and Paddleboard Champions in 2012; and World Para Surfing Champions in 2015.
ISA membership includes the surfing National Federations of 108 countries on five continents. The ISA is presided over by Fernando Aguerre (ARG). The Executive Committee includes four Vice-Presidents Karín Sierralta (PER), Kirsty Coventry (ZIM), Casper Steinfath (DEN) and Barbara Kendall (NZL), Athletes’ Commission Chair Justine Dupont (FRA), Regular Members Atsushi Sakai (JPN) and Jean Luc Arassus (FRA) and ISA Executive Director Robert Fasulo as Ex-officio Member.
Its headquarters are located in La Jolla, California (USA).