ISA is trying to get Surfing into the Olympic Games

Last Thursday, November 19, ISA President Fernando Aguerre met in Lausanne, Switzerland, with the highest authority of the Sports World, Mr. Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President.

Also in attendance was IOC Sports Director, Mr. Christophe Dubi. Surfing chances for Olympic Games inclusion was part of the agenda.

Over 15 years ago Aguerre started his quest to get Surfing into the world most important sporting event. Surfing was one of the most attractive sports on the Asian Beach Games (Bali, 2008). Surfing will be featured in the South American Beach Games (Uruguay, December 2009).

For the third time in a row Surfing was part of the Bolivarian Games. Also, some other Action Sports like BMX and Snowboarding were added to the Sports Program in the last ten years.

I’m reasonably optimistic- says Aguerre in the following interview: “I like to walk, before we run... The ISA and surfing are walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”

Part of the good news is the recent advances in the Wave Parks technology. Man-made waves of the future, will replicate the ones on a good day in the ocean.

The ISA World Surfing News interviewed Aguerre right after his return to California.

What was your agenda for the meeting?
I wanted to provide Mr. Rogge an update on the activities of the ISA and discuss surfing’s interest for inclusion in the Olympic Program. Most importantly I wanted to provide him an update on the development of man-made wave technologies, a key piece of surfing’s potential inclusion in the Summer Games.

How did the meeting go?
Mr. Rogge welcomed me in Spanish, which he speaks very fluently. We were joined by IOC Sports Director, Mr. Christophe Dubi. I started by presenting him with a signed copy of The Surfing Yearbook, published by Surfersvillage. I also brought rare copies of photos of the Duke Kahanamoku, father of modern surfing and a multiple gold and silver medalist in the Olympic Games. He was aware who the Duke was and enjoyed looking at the photos.

Could you please provide us some information of the content of the meeting?
I started with an update on the ISA’s efforts to develop the sport around the world, inclusive of the ISA World Championships. I then showed him a video about recent developments about man-made waves. The meeting was very cordial. I answered several questions.

I also asked him about requisites for surfing to be included in the short list for the 2020 Olympic Program. He explained the main points of the criteria: Universality and visibility of our sport, having an excellent judging program, and keeping the cost of man-made waves reasonable. I believe surfing excels in all three areas. Mr. Dubi then talked about the details of the process to be started in 2010. He was very candid and explained that without man-made waves, surfing has very low chances for inclusion. Having those waves in operation will certainly change surfing’s chances for inclusion.

Was Mr. Rogge well informed about Surfing?
Mr. Rogge seemed very well informed about Surfing and the ISA.

What are your thoughts after the meeting?
I left the meeting happy to see that Mr. Rogge is an open-minded person, very practical, and obviously a great leader. He did not tell us “no chance”. I believe surfing’s chances will completely improve after waves of the surfing contest level become operational. This is something that the ISA expects to happen in the second part of 2010.

The IOC has already included other action sports: Snowboarding in 1998, BMX in 2008, and was considering the inclusion of skateboarding under the tutelage of the International Cycling Union for London 2012. I believe the leaders of the IOC are open-minded about the inclusion of surfing and skateboarding, two leading action sports. These are cool sports, tightly connected to the youth of the whole world. We are talking about tens of millions of participants and hundreds of millions of lifestyle followers. Very few Olympic sports can provide this type of fans´ support and this tight connection to the hearts of the youth around the world.

The IOC has precise rules for inclusion. I’m sure if we pass those hurdles, including reasonably priced man-made waves, we will be looking at a completely different scenario for inclusion. But I like to walk before we run. The ISA and surfing are walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

Are we going to see Surfing in the Olympics?
I’m firmly convinced that given the current developments, surfing today has a stronger chance to be in the Olympic Games. I know that all good things in life take hard work, consistency, passion and resourcefulness. We are committed to work in such a way.

Surfing is a great sport with a huge appeal to youth and is totally universal in geographical, socio economic, ethnical and age terms. Both genders have embraced the sport. Our judging criteria is clear, precise and very well developed. TV and the Internet love surfing. Surfing has produced some of the most dedicated and credible humanitarian and environmental organizations. Man-made waves are going to be in place in the short term (less than two years).

Knowing the strict IOC rules for inclusion, when do you think we’re going to see surfers surfing for Olympic gold?
I would like to continue to work towards inclusion in the Olympic Program as per the IOC rules, instead of engaging in making forecasts about when it will be included. I leave that for other people. I’m paddling hard, focused on the wave and the ride… Surfing teaches us to focus on impeccable execution of what we do at any given time. For surfers, focusing on the wave is what we enjoy the best, both in real and metaphorical ways. This is what I’m doing right now.

Nat Young

It was tough to spot Santa Cruz teenager Nat Young, 17, in the lineup at Sunset Beach today. Out in the water for round two of the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing, Young's windblown shock of white hair, white surfboard and white contest jersey blended perfectly with the white-caps and spray that ruled the day.

It was a tough morning for even the most seasoned Sunset competitors as the eight- to ten-foot surf rapidly declined and competition was halted after only eight heats. But Young was full of smiles, braces gleaming, after a self-confessed clueless performance that saw him advance to round three behind local charger Kekoa Bacalso.

It's not that his surfing doesn't measure up; Young is a former NSSA champion and won the 2008 O'Neill Coldwater Classic back home at Santa Cruz. He just has zero experience at Sunset Beach, which the champions will tell you is a tough venue to master. Add the world's top-ranked surfers and the prestige of the $1,000,000 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, and it's obviously an overwhelming scene for a rookie.

"I'm so stoked, it was pretty tough out there," said Young, after his heat. "I don't know the wave at all. I just kind of caught a bunch of waves and it worked out.

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Indigenous Surfing

The Australian Sports Commission’s Indigenous Sport Program (ISP), which works to increase the number of Indigenous people participating in sport, has partnered with Surfing Australia and the University of Queensland to conduct a three-year (2009–11) research project measuring the impacts of sport on Indigenous Australian communities.

It will be funded by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, an international apolitical organisation that uses the positive influence of sport to address social challenges.

The idea for the research project came out of a need, identified by the ISP, to substantiate claims around the benefits of sport with empirical evidence, not just on the basis of anecdotal accounts. “This is the first time that research of this nature has been conducted in this field” said ISP Senior Sports Consultant Richard Kilian.

ISP has formed a useful partnership with the University of Queensland to provide expertise in the development of the research agenda. Similarly, Surfing Australia has joined ISP as the organisation primarily responsible for providing the context and sites in which the study can take place.

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