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ISA and WSL agree pact for surfing’s Olympic Games debut

The International Surfing Association (ISA) has reached an agreement with the World Surf League (WSL) on how athlete participation will be devised for the sport’s summer Olympic Games debut in 2020.

Surfing was confirmed as an Olympic sport for Tokyo 2020 in August 2016 after decades of campaigning by the ISA for the global development of surfing. However, since that point it has remained unclear how the number of athlete slots would be divided between elite stars competing in the WSL and those on other rungs of the surfing ladder.

The two parties said the new agreement will ensure the participation of the world’s best surfers from the WSL Championship Tour (CT) as well as promoting universal opportunities for surfers around the world.

In principle, the agreement will see up to 18 of the 40 places at the Games reserved for CT surfers – 10 men and eight women – with the remaining 22 places determined at the 2019 and 2020 ISA World Surfing Games and the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima. A single slot apiece for men and women will be reserved for the host nation of the 2020 Games, Japan.

With the support of the WSL, the ISA eligibility rules for Olympic participation will require surfers to make themselves available for their national teams to compete in the World Surfing Games in 2019 and 2020 and, if selected by their national federation, to participate.

The final decision on the complete process is subject to the approval of the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its meeting in February 2018.

ISA president Fernando Aguerre said: “The support, endorsement and collaboration of the WSL and its top professional surfers have always been an important part of our Olympic pathway to Tokyo 2020 and beyond.

“This agreement not only underlines our commitment to have the world’s best athletes competing for gold in surfing’s debut in Tokyo, but also to ensure that the competitions reflect the open access and universality of our sport around the world, in all five continents.

“We are also very pleased to have the WSL’s full support of and commitment to the ISA World Surfing Games between now and 2020. The participation of the top professionals in their national teams will elevate the surfing to new heights, creating additional excitement and drama in the lead-up to the Olympic Games.”

WSL chief executive Sophie Goldschmidt added: “The Olympics offers an incredible platform for any sport and surfing stands to benefit from this massive opportunity in 2020 and, hopefully, beyond. It is essential for surfing to showcase its best possible surfing through this opportunity and that requires the world’s best surfers from the Championship Tour to participate.”