Surfing Wants More than One Night Stand with Olympics
International Surfing Association President Fernando Aguerre asked surf industry executives for their continued support at separate gatherings in San Diego and Orange County last week.
While surfing has made it into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics thanks to Fernando and his work at the ISA, there is no guarantee that surfing will be asked to participate in Paris in 2024 and LA in 2028.
The ISA has to continue to lobby the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its labyrinthine organization to make that happen, which requires money.
The ISA created Friends of Olympic Surfing (FOS) to help fund the initial quest to get surfing into the Olympics.
“The ISA does not want a one night stand,” Fernando said. “…The $1.2 million you guys have donated to us in the last nine years is not enough.
“We still need to convince the IOC that we need to stay,” he said. “Because, let’s face it. A one-night stand might be fun, but that’s not really want you want. You want a long, happy relationship with the Olympic movement.”
The Wave Pool Question
The IOC and Tokyo have decided the surfing competition will take place in the ocean, at Tsurigasaki Beach, located about 1½ hours from Tokyo.
Tsurigasaki is a small beach town with one hotel and not a lot of infrastructure. Think Encinitas in the 1960s, Fernando said.
The ISA and Tokyo Olympics are planning to create a beach festival in the space for 16 days of the Olympics, with surfing taking place on the four days when the waves are the best.
The ISA would prefer the competition happen in a wave pool, but because one does not exist in the area, the IOC will not go that route, Fernando said.
While the WSL has bought land in between Tokyo and the beach, a wave pool is not built yet and IOC will likely not take that kind of risk, he said.
“At this point, there is no way to convince the IOC because (the pool in Tokyo) does not exist yet,” Fernando said. “The IOC is more conservative than the Vatican.”
Before it will endorse a wave pool for any Olympics, the IOC wants to see a wave pool with a viable business model as well, Fernando said. That’s because the IOC has received a lot of criticism in the past for building “white elephant” stadiums and venues that get used during the Olympics then never used again.
However, everyone knows there is no chance that surfing will be included in the Paris Olympics unless a wave pool is built.
Fernando has told the WSL that if they want to guarantee surfing will be in the Olympics going forward, a pool needs to be built in Paris.
He said the WSL is already on that mission, and is talking to people in Paris, as are other wave pool players.
Hurley and Nike Ahead of the Game
Surfing’s big debut in the Olympics is a mere two years away. I heard some concern at the meeting from people I talked to that because it’s been a tough few years for many surf brands, the industry might not be prepared to take advantage of the moment.
During his talk, Fernando noted how Nike and Hurley are already ahead of the game.
At the Brazil Olympic games, 40 Hurley surfboards were used as the main decoration at the main US Olympic Committee House, and were seen by all the Olympic notables that attended parties there.
He also noted Hurley’s boardshorts that represent different countries are already in the market. For example, when France won the World Cup, Hurley already had French national boardshorts in its line and ready to promote.
“Nike gets it,” Fernando said.
He recommended industry brands become affiliated with national surfing federations around the world to take advantage of sponsorship opportunities.
“People love to buy the jerseys from their countries,” he said.
Fernando urged companies that have contributed to Friends of Olympic Surfing in the past to continue to support the cause, and those that haven’t yet to please do so. FOS supporters receive special benefits at the Olympics including special access to events, the competition, and housing.
We took photos of the reception in Dana Point at the home of Peter Burke, the founder of PJ Salvage and other companies. The photos are below in our slide show.