It Took 27 Years To Get Surfing Into The Olympics  - Stab Mag

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It Took 27 Years To Get Surfing Into The Olympics 

Watch: The Impossible Wave, feat. the ISA’s Fernando Aguerre.

cinema // Jul 1, 2023
Words by Brendan Buckley
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Confession: I seriously doubted the idea that surfing would ever be included in the Olympics. 

If my memory serves me well, I even had a story published around the 2014 Games in Sochi exploring my doubts — less than a decade ago. 

I wasn’t alone. 

Carissa Moore once said, “The Olympics wasn’t ever a dream for me because it wasn’t tangible.” 

She would go on to win surfing’s first-ever Olympic Gold medal. 

Behind the scenes, Fernando Aguirre had been chipping away for 27 years to make it happen — which is the subject of the ISA’s new documentary, ‘The Impossible Wave.’ 

First, we get some background on Fernando, who grew up in Mar del Plata, Argentina. We learn that he collected stamps as a 10-year-old (nice). Then we tuck behind the scenes to see how he and his brother Santiago started Reef Sandals with $4k in 1985 and grew it to an estimated $50 million in revenue. They sold 80% of the business in 2002, and the additional 20% in 2005 when VF bought the company for $188 million.

It seems you learn some project management skillz when you build a sandal empire from scratch. 

He also took an uncompensated role as the ISA President in 1994 — when surfing was in a very different place. After the Reef sale, Fernando decided to focus on charitable causes and use his biz expertise to help others.

From there, it unpacks Fernando’s journey from getting laughed out of rooms to negotiating politically charged relationships between surf organizations to watching surfing’s first Olympics unfold before his eyes in Japan. 

All up, it took Fernando 12,000 hours of unpaid service to pursue something that most reasonable people told him was impossible. 


Next stop: Teahupo’o, 2024. 


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