In 2019, Surfing’s Olympic floodgates will open. For the first time ever, surfers will qualify to become Olympians
The Lima 2019 Pan American Games, the 2019 World Surfing Games, and 2019 World Surf League Championship Tour will all directly qualify athletes for Tokyo 2020.
The Pan Am Games will kick off the action-packed year of qualification in July, where Surfing (and StandUp Paddle) is also making its debut. The top 16 men and 16 women of the Americas will descend on Peru’s renowned point break, Punta Rocas, to compete for one slot for each gender in the Tokyo 2020 Games.
So, wondering what it feels like to be first up to vie for Olympic qualification?
The ISA caught up with three Olympic hopefuls that will be competing in the Pan Ams: Canada’s Cody Young and Bethany Zelasko, and Barbados’ Chelsea Tuach.
Here’s what these aspiring Olympics told the ISA.
Has it hit you yet that you are one step away from qualifying for the Olympic Games?
Cody: It’s such a crazy feeling to know that if the event goes to plan, I’ll be an Olympian. It makes me feel proud to be a surfer considering how professional our sport is getting.
Bethany: It has hit me multiple times that I am so close to qualifying for the Olympics. I only dreamed of getting a spot surfing in the Olympics… especially in the first one to include surfing! Every time I think about it, I feel so blessed to have this opportunity.
Chelsea: It still is a bit surreal, but every time I think about it, I get so excited. To be part of such a major event like the Pan American games for the first time, and to also have a chance at qualifying for the Olympics is massive. I can’t wait.
What would it mean for you to qualify and surf for your country at Tokyo 2020?
Cody: It would mean everything to represent Canada at the highest possible level a sport can reach.
Bethany: It would mean so much to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and represent Canada. Surfing is my passion and I love my country. I would love to show the world what it means to be a surfer and how it can be done anywhere in the world!
Chelsea: Qualifying for the Olympics and having a shot at winning a medal for your country is every athlete’s dream. I love my country and I love every chance I get to represent it. To have a shot at performing on the ultimate stage for Barbados would be incredible.
How much focus will you put into your preparation for Lima 2019?
Cody: My training for Lima 2019 started months ago. Everything I’ve been doing for the last five years is geared towards improving and being the best competitor I can be. So it shouldn’t be a problem feeling comfortable for the event.
Bethany: My main focus and goal is to qualify for the Olympics. I am training to improve my surfing and competition skills. I am already getting my boards in order for the Pan Am Games. I am also taking a break from college to focus on this event.
Chelsea: All of my focus this year is on bettering myself as an athlete going into Lima 2019 to have my performance, my mindset and my physical strength at its peak for July.
Who is your biggest competition?
Cody: I think Kevin Schulz (USA) is a standout. I love the way he surfs. Noe Mar McGonagle (CRC) will also be hard to beat on the point break.
Bethany: I am my biggest competition. I have the surfing to make any heat. In competition it is a matter of getting the right waves and surfing them how I surf every day. The only person I am focusing on for this event, and any event, is myself.
Chelsea: Competing at an event with the top 15 girls from the Americas, it would be silly to underestimate any of them. I want to be ready for anything, and also give my best performance.
What are you looking forward to most at Lima 2019?
Cody: Hopefully getting good waves for the competition. Fingers crossed.
Bethany: I cannot wait to surf Punta Rocas again! I have never surfed it in the winter, so I am super excited to see what it’s like. I love surfing on my backhand, so Punta Rocas is a goofyfooter’s dream! Also, it will be so much fun do an event with athletes from other sports.
Chelsea: Peru is one of my favorite countries to travel to. Outside of the great waves, the food is something I always look forward to. It will also be extra special this year, to get to experience the culture with my fellow countrymen.
Note that the 2019 WSL CT and 2020 ISA World Surfing Games are higher in the hierarchy of qualification events than the Lima 2019 Pan Am Games. Given that there is a limit of two surfers per country, the qualified surfers from Lima 2019 will not be confirmed until all the qualification events are completed.
Read about the qualification process and see the official qualification document here.
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).