ISA Gains Part-Time Custody Over John Florence, Gabe Medina, Jordy Smith, But No Kelly?
Fernando Aguerre’s Master Plan is all coming together.
Ever since co-founding the Reef sandal co. with his brother in 1984, Argentina’s Fernando Aguerre has leveraged his power and prestige within the surfing industry realize one lofty dream, “a llevar el surf a todo el mundo”: To bring the sport of surfing to the entire world.
Ten years after his sandal endeavors, Aguerre became president of the International Surfing Association (ISA), which, despite what the WSL (then ASP) might have thought about it, made Aguerre the leader of the world’s governing body of surfing (as declared by the General Association of International Sports Federations).
One year after that, in 1995, Aguerre convinced the International Olympic Committee to grant the ISA provisional recognition, which resulted in an official admission into the Olympic movement in 1997.
Aguerre saw great value in the Olympics. As the most-watched sporting event in the world, the Olympics provided the ultimate platform to showcase surfing to the masses. For the next two decades, Aguerre fought tooth and nail to provide surfing a spot in the Games through every channel at his disposal.
Perhaps to Aguerre’s surprise, the biggest opponents of his Olympic quest were often surfers themselves, who believed that the “kooky” and “exploitative” nature of the Games would tarnish surfing’s concurrent “hardcore” or “Counter Culture: image and “laid-back” vibe, man.
But Aguerre remained steadfast.
Using the ISA as his vessel, the Argentine attempted to draw the biggest surfing names from the ASP/WSL Championship Tour into the annual World Surfing Games, which pitted nation against nation in an Olympics-style event. Despite his best efforts, Aguerre never had much luck seducing Slater, Fanning, Medina, Florence and other WCT stars into his ISA heat draws—they simply didn’t see enough value in surfing’s “other” World Title. (Recent men’s ISA winners include: Santiago Muniz (ARG), Jhony Corzo (Mex), and Leandro Usuna (ARG); women’s: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Pauline Ado (FRA), and Tia Blanco (USA) in the women’s).
Nevertheless, Aguerre persisted.
In 2015, the Olympic Committee announced that surfing had been shortlisted for inclusion to the 2020 Summer Olympics. Then, on August 3, 2016, during the 129th IOC Session at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, the IOC unanimously voted to include five new sports to the program of the Tokyo 2020 Games. Surfing was one.
Aguerre rejoiced! His decades-long dream had become a reality. But he wasn’t done yet. Using the biz skills he learned from growing the beer-opening sandal co., Aguerre leveraged the ISA’s power within the Olympic structure to establish a qualification system that forced CT surfers to compete in the World Games—if they wanted a spot in the Olympics, of course—despite the fact that their actual qualification would (most likely) come from their CT ranking).
In other words, even if John Florence wins the 2019 World Title, he’ll still have to compete in the ISA-sanctioned event to secure his Olympic bid—he doesn’t need to perform well, but he does need to show up. It’s a clever by-law that Aguerre slipped into the qualification process to help grow the prestige of his own association, the ISA.
This was a maneuver of great progression, risk, and degree of difficulty. We award it an excellent score.
Recently the ISA announced the CT stars that will attend the 2019 ISA World Games this September 7-15 in Japan. They include:
Men: Ryan Callinan, Julian Wilson, Owen Wright
Women: Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Nikki Van Dijk
Men: Italo Ferreira, Filipe Toledo, Gabriel Medina
Women: Tatiana Weston-Webb, Silvana Lima
Women: Brisa Hennessy
Men: Jeremy Flores, Michel Bourez, Joan Duru
Women: Johanne Defay
Men: Leonardo Fioravanti
Men: Kanoa Igarashi
Men: Ricardo Christie
Women: Paige Hareb
Men: Jordy Smith
Men: John John Florence, Kolohe Andino, Conner Coffin
Women: Caroline Marks, Carissa Moore, Courtney Conlogue
One must wonder how our 11x World Champion—who currently sits at number nine in the world (one spot behind Conner Coffin), and who has been more than vocal about his hopes of competing in Tokyo 2020—feels about this exclusion from the 2019 ISA World Games. It’s of course possible that Slater was offered a slot and turned it down, but given the qualification regulations and his apparent eagerness to compete in 2020, that seems the less likely of the two options.
“We’re stoked that the world’s best surfers embrace and understand the importance of the Olympic Movement,” Aguerre said, in his official statement. “Most CT surfers have already competed and won medals in the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship so the national team format is not new to them. This ISA World Surfing Games will provide us all with a glimpse of the national pride, team camaraderie, and global stage that will be in full swing during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
“The participation of the top WSL professional surfers is also a testimony to the positive and collaborative working relationship we have developed with the World Surf League over the years. Surfers from the five continents will join the WSL contingent, for this historic competition, part of the first-ever Olympic Surfing cycle.”
Surfing was included in the Tokyo 2020 Games on a one-off basis. The ISA has now shifted its focus toward securing surfing’s inclusion in the next editions of the Olympics, including Paris 2024 and LA 2028.
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