And leading the charge for the ISA in preparing for surfing in the next summer Olympics is La Jollan Fernando Aguerre, who was elected president of the international surfing group in 1994. In 1995, shortly after being elected, Aguerre met with the IOC president in Switzerland. He began pressing for inclusion of surfing in the Olympic Games, stressing it would be an ISA strategic priority.
Founded in 1964, ISA 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, bodysurfing, wake surfing, and all other wave-riding activities on any type of waves, and on flat water using wave-riding equipment.
ISA membership includes the surfing National Governing Bodies of 101 countries on five continents. ISA’s office is based at 5580 La Jolla Blvd. No. 145 in La Jolla.
“There is an international Olympic federation, one per sport,” said Aguerre. “La Jolla is very privileged to be the only international surfing organization in the United States.”
A native Argentinian who was a member of Argentina’s national surfing team, Aguerre noted there are 33 different international federations representing every Olympic sport — gymnastics, aquatics, track and field, etc.
“When I was elected ISA president in 1994, I decided to move the ISA office from Australia to La Jolla,” Aguerre said noting the surfing organization is active locally promoting the evolving sport.
“We have scholarships we give to underprivileged boys and girls,” Aguerre said. “We have surfing judging seminars, all based in the United States.”
Surfing in the Olympics has been a long time coming. The dream of Olympic Surfing started with Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic gold medalist in swimming and a native Hawaiian known as the father of the modern sport. He first presented his dream at the 1912 Summer Olympic Games in Stockholm, where he expressed his wish to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to see surfing included in the Games.
Despite several unsuccessful attempts to promote inclusion of surfing into the Olympic Games through the first decades of his ISA presidency, Aguerre persisted and pushed forward. In 2014, the ISA was given renewed optimism under new IOC President Thomas Bach. Bach brought a fresh vision to the Olympics, realizing the need to add youthful, vibrant sports to the Games.
The door had finally been opened for 26 sports, included surfing, to apply for inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Games. Two years later, on Aug. 3, 2016, at the 129th IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro, the Duke’s dream came true, as the IOC voted to include surfing as one of five new sports for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“Surfing was never in the Olympics, but I believed one day it would be,” said Aguerre joking, “After 20 years — we finally got it right.”
Characterizing the ISA as “an embassy of surfing,” Aguerre said the group is organizing a surf festival during the two weeks of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“The competition, the games and everything is being run by us (ISA),” said Aguerre, who added there will be 20 qualifying male and 20 qualifying female contests from around the world, selected to compete in the first Olympic surfing competition.
“There will be thousands of people applying, but only 20 will be chosen from each gender,” Aguerre said. “It will be a very competitive process.”
For more information, visit www.isa.org.