2023 ISA World Games Preview: Olympic Ballyhoo With 4 New Countries Competing - Stab Mag
Stab High star Al Cleland Jr throwin' it back for Mexico in the warmups. Photo: Pablo Jimenez

2023 ISA World Games Preview: Olympic Ballyhoo With 4 New Countries Competing

And why El Salvador’s President says that surfing is “one of the pillars” of the country.

news // May 31, 2023
Words by Christian Bowcutt
Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Terror is the given of the place,” wrote Joan Didion of El Salvador in 1982.

I don’t believe terror is the “given” of any place in any time, but it would be dishonest to say that the world’s perception of El Salvador has always been one of a smiley, tropical Who-ville.

San Salvador has consistently ranked among the most dangerous cities on Earth for decades due to gang-related crime.

But El Salvador — which is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Massachusetts with 3:4 the population of New York City — is changing. The country’s President, Nayib Bukele, got elected on the promise of cracking down on gang violence and modernizing El Salvador. He recently claimed 365 days of no homicides. Though, his administration clarified this as meaning 365 total days without homicides since his election in 2019.

El Salvador is — statistically speaking — safer than it has been for decades. And though many Salvadoreans accuse Bukele of usurping too much power, he continues to be immensely popular and revered (based on an alleged 91% approval rating).

The women’s side of Team El Salvador. Photo: Pablo Franco

President Bukele also considers surfing’s status as “El Salvador’s number one sport” a keystone of the country’s modernization — alongside building Bitcoin Beach, Bitcoin City, Surf City, and the “largest prison in the Americas”.

Ok, no more political musings. I just thought it’d be tone deaf not to mention that holding a surf contest here comes with its uhh… beautiful complexities.

And the ISA World Surfing Games really is a special contest, bringing together 297 athletes from 63 different nations. Each nation brings sand from their home countries that is then combined into one glass container as part of the opening ceremony (which starts today). These are good people working hard to preach a, “better world through surfing.” El Salvador’s desire to prioritize surfing is honorable, and they happen to have amazing people that surf extremely well.

Recent Surfing Hall of Fame inductee Fernando Aguerre with Italy’s #1 CT surfer. Photo by Juani Gayol/ISA

Here are the five new countries that are competing at the 2023 ISA World Games at El Sunzal, La Bocana, El Salvador and what this competition has to do with Olympic Qualification:

Five New Teams:

Czech Republic: Four surfers will be competing (three women and one man).

India: Three surfers will be competing (three men).

Latvia: One surfer will be competing (one woman).

Mauritius: One surfer will be competing (one man).

Team India, repping hard. Photo by Juani Gayol/ISA

Olympic Qualification:

Four men and four women from the Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania “continents” will qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games through this competition. The highest-ranking surfers at the end of the contest from these continents will clinch a spot in the Olympics.

Here’s how surfers from the “Americas” will qualify for the Olympics: At the end of this 2023 World Games competition, the five highest-ranking men and five highest-ranking women will qualify for the 2023 Pan American Games in Chile. Then, the male and female winners of that event will qualify for the Olympics.

This is aside from the “Tier 1” method of Olympic qualification via a surfer’s ranking on the CT.

Unidentified surfer during today’s warm-ups. Photo: Sean Evans

Big Names To Watch

With the advent of the ISA games having weight in terms of Olympic qualification, the World Games now features a much high caliber of surfers than before.

This year, eight former ISA Gold Medalists, 28 of the 40 Olympians who competed in Tokyo, and four CT World Champions will be there in El Salvador, including Kanoa Igarashi, Sally Fitzgibbons, Carissa Moore, Gabriel Medina, Filipe Toledo, and John John Florence.

Sally Fitzgibbons during today’s press conference. Photo: Pablo Franco

Where To Tune In

You can watch the live broadcast of the 2023 ISA World Games live on YouTube at the ISA’s channel.

You can also follow along on the following platforms:

Facebook: International Surfing Association
Instagram: @ISAsurfing
Twitter: @ISAsurfing
YouTube: @ISAsurfing
Tiktok: @isasurfing



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