Imagine spending over 12,000 hours of unpaid service pursuing an Olympic dream - a dream so audacious it was deemed by many as "The Impossible Wave."
Yet, Fernando Aguerre, the vibrant and tireless president of the International Surfing Association (ISA), took on the monumental challenge to catch this wave and ride it all the way to the Olympic Games.
This extraordinary tale is recounted in the 40-minute documentary "The Impossible Wave."
The film unveiled in a grand world premiere at Huntington Beach, California, invites viewers on a thrilling journey into the life and career of the ISA's maverick leader, Fernando Aguerre.
Unwaveringly dedicated, Aguerre devoted 27 years to lobbying for surfing to be recognized as an Olympic sport.
Produced and directed by the creative duo Jay and Jessica Johnson, the film recounts Aguerre's journey with affectionate detail, showcasing his relentless persistence, resilience, and unique, flamboyant style.
Guests at the premiere, who included luminaries like Quiksilver USA founder Bob McKnight and world champions Peter Townend, Barton Lynch, and Debbie Beacham, were draped in traditional Hawaiian leis, honoring the sport's rich heritage.
Persistence and Resilience
Aguerre, who first stepped into his presidential role at the ISA in 1994, faced substantial challenges in his Olympic mission.
Despite multiple setbacks and skeptical peers, he never lost sight of his goal.
In one of the film's poignant moments, Aguerre admits, "My persistence and my resilience were my engines, but my fuel, I think, was the support of all people - even people that thought I was a lunatic and that this was a lunacy. Which I believed, many times, that it was a lunacy."
Aguerre's dream finally came to fruition at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 when the International Olympic Committee unanimously voted for surfing's inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Since then, surfing has been affirmed as a permanent sport in the Olympic roster, also featuring in the Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 Games.
"The Impossible Wave" captures the excitement of this landmark decision, stirring emotions and earning a standing ovation at the premiere following Aguerre's tearful declaration, "It's been an emotional wave."
The film arrived at a fitting time as the 2022 ISA World Surfing Games took center stage in Huntington Beach.
Two hundred forty-seven athletes from 51 nations competed in the Games for the coveted Team Gold medals, surpassing the previous record in 2019.
"Alone We're Nothing"
Reflecting on his journey during the Games, Aguerre said: "26 years ago, I was here in Huntington Beach at the first ever World Surfing Games, and I was committing to Olympic surfing, but I didn't even know how to get there."
"I didn't know if it was a process; I didn't understand anything. I think sometimes ignorance could be a blessing."
From a dream born in ignorance and passion, Aguerre and his unwavering commitment to the sport he loves have changed the course of surfing history.
He further emphasized, "You do something that you feel like you were supposed to do, and suddenly you're in the middle of people thinking that you did it alone. Alone, we're nothing. Nobody achieves anything alone."
Aguerre's journey, as beautifully presented in "The Impossible Wave," underscores the power of perseverance and passion.
It echoes Aguerre's heartfelt belief that "everything is possible because it is if you believe."
As the world of surfing surges onto the Olympic stage, Aguerre's tireless efforts and enduring belief in the impossible wave continue to inspire generations of athletes and dreamers around the globe.
The next stop in the Olympic surfing calendar is Tahiti's Teahupoo for the Paris 2024 Games.