The ISA created Friends of Olympic Surfing to bring the surf industry into the effort to get surfing into the Olympics.
Fernando asked surf industry leaders who were there, including Volcom CEO Richard Woolcott, Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight and Billabong North America President Paul Naude, to help the cause financially, spiritually and intellectually.
Fernando has headed the effort for several years, and has spent thousands of dollars on the cause. He does not receive any compensation from the International Surfing Association, a nonprofit.
Fernando has traveled to Olympic-related meetings and hobnobbed with officials and decision makers, always the only guy in the room wearing a bowtie.
“That’s what I learned from you guys. …branding,” he said. The Olympic players say, “That’s the surfing guy with the bow tie.”
His politicking appears to be working. Fernando was recently named chairman of the World Beach Games, a multi-sport competition, slated for 2012.
Fernando told the group he is hopeful surfing will be in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, a city that exudes beach and surfing culture.
Surfing brings something special to the Olympics, including its connection with nature and with youth culture, he said.
Officials at the Olympics have seen the success of snowboarding at the games, and are anxious to add sports that attract a younger audience, he said.
But, getting into the Olympics “club” is very political and complicated and will take a group effort to make the dream a reality.
It’s a dream not just of Fernando’s, but also of surfing’s spiritual leader, Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic gold medalist in swimming 1912 and 1920 who wanted surfing to be included in the Olympics.
Friends of Olympic Surfing is a nonprofit, and Fernando envisions it as a VIP club where the industry can pool its resources to fight for the cause.
Olympic officials previously told Fernando surfing needed three things to be included in the games: a universal appeal and visibility; a sound judging system; and guaranteed good waves on demand.
The only thing missing is the manmade waves, and Fernando knows of four companies who are working on that. However, he told the group last night he thinks surfing could be included in the Rio games even without the wave technology.
Fernando said he was recently told the Olympics definitely wants surfing in. But that's not a guarantee - Fernando described the Olympic world as a "3-D labyrinth," and, for new sports to be included in the summer games, others have to be voted out.
Becoming a founding member of Friends of Olympic Surfing costs $5,000 per year, for three years, for individuals. Corporate membership is $10,000 per year, for three years.
At the end of his presentation, Fernando produced his own $5,000 check to join, as did his brother Santiago and sister-in-law, Cecilia. It also appeared some other executives joined the cause.
Fernando will host a second meeting for San Diego surf industry executives at his home in La Jolla next week.