WE ARE JUST OVER three months away from what could be the most historic moment in the 51-year history of the International Surfing Association (ISA) when, at the 129th IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro in August, the IOC membership votes on whether to admit new sports to the Tokyo 2020 programme.
The ISA’s passion for Olympic inclusion is expressed through our work to promote surfing globally. We encourage participation for all ages and for both genders, and we are pushing to develop the sport in new, exciting markets where there is fantastic potential and a real appetite for surfing – particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Since January 2014, supported in part by IOC funding which was put towards a National Federation development handbook, 21 new National Surfing Federations have formed and joined the ISA. They include nations like Algeria, Bangladesh, Haiti, Scotland, Sierra Leone and Norway – showcasing surfing’s popularity and universality. At the time of writing, we have 99 member federations; we are looking forward to welcoming our 100th very soon.
As a part of this global development strategy, we were delighted that junior surfers from 32 countries across all five continents applied for the 2015 ISA Scholarship Programme, which offers financial support to surfers under 18 to further their education, pay for travel to surf contests, pay contest and coaching fees, and upgrade their equipment. These young surfers are the future of our sport and whether they go on to compete professionally or continue to surf recreationally, it gives me great inspiration to see the love for surfing growing globally. It would be wonderful to see some of our scholarship applicants on the waves at Tokyo 2020.
Further promoting the development of surfing, the ISA certified more than 1,500 instructors at 150 ISA Educational Courses, which took place across 35 countries during 2015. Significant progress is also expected during 2016, with 200 courses across 40 countries already underway or planned, with a target of certifying a further 2,000 instructors.
On the waves, our ISA World Championships continue to grow and prosper. The 2015 ISA World Surfing Games in Playa Popoyo, Nicaragua, were an amazing success, with 27 national teams gracing the waves and thousands of spectators cheering on the action from the beach. The 2015 ISA World StandUp Paddle [SUP] and Paddleboard Championships wowed the shores of Sayulita, Mexico, with our fantastic athletes demonstrating their physical prowess and surfing artistry during a wonderful week of world-class competition. The event included SUP racing in several different events.
We also made history by hosting the inaugural ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship in La Jolla, California – a truly inspirational event that will be talked about for years to come. All 69 competitors who took part in this momentous competition returned home as ambassadors of adaptive surfing. This was only the start of something much bigger and wider-reaching that we will see grow and develop in the years ahead – we’re already excited for the 2016 ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship.
Looking ahead, the ISA was delighted to announce recently that the 2016 ISA World Surfing Games will take place in the picturesque beach town of Jacó, Costa Rica. Team Costa Rica will have the opportunity to defend their world champion title on their local waves, which promises to be a wonderful spectacle. We will also be going to Fiji for the 2016 ISA SUP and Paddleboard Championship – the first time that an ISA event will be held in the Pacific island chain, further highlighting the global growth and expansion of SUP surfing and racing. Under ISA management, SUP, the fastest growing water sport activity in the world, has boomed in popularity in recent years and the ISA has allocated great resources to the SUP discipline for the last six years.
We were proud to lead the campaign to have SUP Racing in the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima and the 2017 World Beach Games in San Diego. The discipline was also part of our application for inclusion in the Olympic programme for Tokyo 2020. Only surfing was recommended this time, but the ISA intends to continue to work for the potential inclusion of SUP disciplines in the 2024 Olympic Games. As is the case with surfing, SUP has incredible youth appeal. Its unique culture and ease of accessibility fundamentally resonate with young people.
It’s been a wonderful few years for the ISA and surfing, and we have made huge progress in many areas – we’re super stoked about the prospect of riding the wave to Tokyo 2020 and beyond.