The ISA and WSL reach agreement on the Tokyo Olympics

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)

Overnight, the International Surfing Association (ISA) announced an agreement with the World Surf League (WSL) for qualifications to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

For those unaware, the ISA is the world governing authority for surfing. It’s crowned a world champion every year since 1964, yet from 1976 onwards - when professional surfing began - the ISA has assumed secondary status.

Despite this, the ISA has always had an ace up its sleeve: it’s recognised by the IOC as surfing’s sanctioning body. Since 1982, the ISA has doggedly pursued their Olympic dream, and in 2015 it was realised when surfing was accepted into the 2020 Tokyo games.

ISA President Fernando Aguerre

So the situation is this: the WSL has access to the best surfers in the world, but the ISA has access to the biggest competition in the world.

How to make this damn thing work?

Well, the aforementioned qualifying principles have been nutted out and the two camps have come up with an equitable solution.

There’ll be 40 surfers at the Tokyo Olympics and 20 surfers will qualify via the ISA and 18 via the WSL’s Championship Tour. That leaves 2 slots for the host nation Japan to fill as they please. So it’s almost split down the middle between ISA and WSL.

The way it’s divvied up provides plenty to think about. For starters there are the practical matters, like how will the 18 CT surfers be chosen?

But then there are also questions that strike at the heart of the Olympic ideal. No-one would argue against the Championship Tour having the world’s best competitive surfers, and yet more than half the Olympic competitors won't be CT-grade surfers?

And there’s also some legacy marketing to consider...

It’s only via the inclusion of those CT surfers that Olympic surfing will have any credibility, yet the CT tagline is ‘It takes a tour to make a title’. Are you seeing the paradox here? CT surfers give the Olympic title integrity, while CT marketing makes a joke of it.

...but not an Olympic title

Of course it’ll be overlooked by all involved, particularly the WSL who want to hitch a ride on the Olympic bandwagon. Exposure to the global market being the main game here; the WSL will be looking to parlay the mass audience towards their own ends. Expect many press releases about “growing the sport”.

On the other side of the ledger is the ISA who’ve spent 35 years getting surfing into the five ring circus. Now they’ve succeeded they’ll wanna get their pound of flesh, and it’ll arrive via renewed interest in the 2018 and 2019 ISA Games - the qualifying games to the 2020 Olympics. Expect more QS surfers to make themselves available.

It’s entirely possible that a non-CT surfers will win the Tokyo Olympics - it’s a one-off competition after all and luck is a factor. Just ask Steven Bradbury.

In fact, after all the political wrangling that’ll precede the Olympics, not to mention the high-performance coaching and earnest patriotic posturing, a little-known surfer ‘doing a Bradbury’ might be the very best outcome for all of us.


peabo's picture
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peabo Thursday, 21 Dec 2017 at 2:22pm

Do country competitor limits apply to this? The current top 18 on the CT are from 6 different countries, mostly USA, AUS and BRA obviously. If they place a limit of 2 competitors per country for instance, we might end up with a Jamaican bobsled team equivalent in there somewhere on the ISA side.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin Thursday, 21 Dec 2017 at 2:35pm

I find it hard to summon the bare faced bitterness that these bodies ( ISA and WSL ) require when they present their front as ambassadors of the Stoke of surfing with a desire to spread that love evenly across the globe .

How can you remain hateful about such a sentiment ?

Luckily , I then recall that both mobs are avaricious control freaks that have zero interest in the act of me enjoying a quiet session amongst the waves and every desire to see surfing twisted , distorted and wrung of every possible opportunity to exploit it for maximum dollars or bureaucratic power.

Fuck the WSL / ISA !

Loving the photo of the ISA gronk. Now I'll have something to base the rudimentary effigy on that I intend to use as a piñata for New Years.

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf Saturday, 23 Dec 2017 at 8:40am

Yes blowin, my sentiments exactly. Leave it to the ‘athletes’ I.e. runners, stick throwers, ball tossers, swimmers, etc...and piss off fucking golf, tennis, and all the other sports that have plenty of time to shine. It is all about Olympic sports not all these other professional endeavours. And who has ever heard of the ISA anyway? The first I knew of it was only recently due to this ridiculous ‘lympics rubbish. And who the F&*%$#@! Is that goose with that loud and very bad shirt and crap sunnies?

blindboy's picture
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blindboy Thursday, 21 Dec 2017 at 3:02pm

The Olympics represent the perfect opportunity for the WSL to shoot itself in the foot. They potentially offer the largest audience in the history of the sport at a location which is extremely unreliable. So a huge audience gets to see the dribbletown follies! Interest level? Zero. Growth potential? Massively reduced.

Woof woof 41's picture
Woof woof 41's picture
Woof woof 41 Thursday, 21 Dec 2017 at 3:32pm

I thought they decided to run it in a wave pool!
They Gold medal should be run in none luck conditions!
So as competors have the same wave/run as each other..
The same as a half pipe in snowboarding!
It's the only way the main steam views will be able to tell if one guys proformace on a wave was better than the others..
By doing it on identical waves..
Please leave the waiting game for waves to us "core" surfers.
As the public will only want to hear a TV commintator say..
Now crossing to the wave tank to see if Julian Wilson can achieve a 9.6 to beat John John Florences 9.2..
Or now crossing to the wave tank as Gabriel Medina attempts a combinations of air reverses and a rodeo clown to out score Kelly slaters 540 front side air combo with a lien grab front side straight air to take the gold!
You could design it a surfing comp in a wave pool the way divers can beat others by doing a more complicated dive.
It's very exciting when a diver announce the dive he is going to complete before he dives! Especially when it's to win gold!
Much the same way as when I weight lifter puts on more weight to beat the other to win or get silver or gold!
Could be a fun new way to score surfing as the waves will be the same and on demand?

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Thursday, 21 Dec 2017 at 5:05pm

Can't the WSL surfers just compete at select ISA events to gain a shot at Tokyo and fill the whole 40 slots ?

If not , let's see a list of 20 surfers from the ISA amatuer ranks that won't render the Olympics a " celebration of diversity " kook slam.

Anyone got any names ?

erikb's picture
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erikb Saturday, 23 Dec 2017 at 12:10am

"Can't the WSL surfers just compete at select ISA events to gain a shot at Tokyo and fill the whole 40 slots ?"

Thats pretty much exactly how the international snowboard federation died, when IOC gave the qualifying rights to the Ski federation and the snowboard federation subsequently lost its sponsors..

crg's picture
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crg Thursday, 21 Dec 2017 at 8:03pm

Olympic surfing is just ridiculous...but the Steven Bradbury Gold is on my all time favourite moments list. I saw him rolling through town one night about 6 months after with a smoking hot chick under one arm, a stubbie in the hand and a smile wider than Sydney harbour. Gold gold gold!

Woof woof 41's picture
Woof woof 41's picture
Woof woof 41 Thursday, 21 Dec 2017 at 11:57pm

Perhaps they could just add a surfboard 100 meter paddle race for priority instead this Olympics?

mundies's picture
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mundies Friday, 22 Dec 2017 at 12:46am

Without much analysis - if there are two professional sports associations and one major prize - and if the judging is fair and equitable - it is merit based? Shit sinks and cream rises, it therefore potentially is inherently nominating the system that provides the better surfers. Good luck to all involved. I'll probably check in again in 6-12 months with a solid case of apathy-loaded slight interest.

inzider's picture
inzider's picture
inzider Friday, 22 Dec 2017 at 6:03am

The final stage in the bastardisation of surfing here.
Following in the footsteps of snowboarding and skateboarding where the hardcore riders avoid with a barge pole.
Glory seeking of the highest order.
Lame, very very lame.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Friday, 22 Dec 2017 at 6:35am

This poor little Olympic pony might get flogged so hard it'll be DOA.

And you know what they say about flogging a dead pony.

MP's picture
MP's picture
MP Saturday, 23 Dec 2017 at 10:52am

Surfing Australia is changing it's policy for team selection to the ISA Worlds and I would guess other countries will follow. Yes WSL & QS surfers will fill national teams and the best surfers will represent their respective nations. This will mean amateur surfers who were previously competitive in ISA Worlds events will be cast aside except for the junior events which attract a high standard and will be unaffected by these changes. The ISA will attract a higher standard of surfer to enter their amateur competitions in a bid by individual pro surfers to get an Olympic medal. The elephant in the room is: Will this mean the end for Hawaii to compete as a separate nation in future ISA events? The anomaly of Hawaii having a separate team to the USA is a red flag to Olympic officials who no doubt said "WTF is this all about."

Tarzan71's picture
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Tarzan71 Saturday, 23 Dec 2017 at 10:54am

I wonder how many hard core surfers will watch just for the fail factor, I also wonder how many of the WSL athletes will choose to avoid competing in case of losing credibility amongst their fan base. Japan for me is also an unknown entity as far as natural quality waves with contestable consistency, I would love to know more. If no contest site then a predicted wave pool on steroids would also generate a heap of curiosity for me personally.

These unknown values will mean I will try and watch as much of the show as possible even though the whole surf/skate/Olympics thing is not a concept I support.

Quint's picture
Quint's picture
Quint Saturday, 23 Dec 2017 at 12:40pm

Plutonium medals for everyone!

gene's picture
gene's picture
gene Saturday, 23 Dec 2017 at 9:04pm

Shrivel up people. Temple of Devo!!!

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher Monday, 24 Jun 2019 at 8:20pm

[NEWS] Tokyo Olympic Surfing
Surfing is the least valued Olympic Sport in history of Olympics.
IOC couldn't wait to brand beachbums as the least athletic gone!
2020 Olympic Surfing Ticket is valued at a near worthless $40.00 (40 bucks?)
Uber skateboard to Surfing Venue is the only thing cheaper in Tokyo.(cheap Tuesdays)

Ok! So tbb doesn't realize that Surfing is on it's [P] plates...(Sorry! Don't mean Shit!)
Other Tokyo 2020 [P] Sports (Ticket Pricing)
$155 Skateboarding (5,000 seat) Little bro is invited to Penthouse Bubble Tea Party.
$167 Climbing / $171 Karate / $896 Baseball

Ok! So tbb doesn't realize that Surfing has wave pools as a secret weapon (Ok!)
$602 Beach Volleyball (12,000seat) vs $730 Indoor Volleyball (12,000 seat)
I wouldn't bet on it! As Japan is home of indoor volleyball so Flag premium event.
Check out classy dedicated Indoor Volleyball venue...(not for Wavepool thugs!)

tbb says don't feel downhearted...
Europe's poorest suburb started a Go Fund Me page for WSL / ISA Wave Pool.
Sadly UN pulled it...tbb could be confused with some other Go fund me gazillionaire.

WSL Paris Olympic dream...
IOC Paris Olympic reality...
Ooh La La! (Le Beach Volleyball babes)...Bon appetitties.

Olympic Beach Volleyball is just playing games with Santa Monica WSL HQ
'& we'll have that in pink thanx & soph' can play anytime she likes, I'm so not a bitch!'
'Maybe save a ray for that endangered beach bunny & her boyfriend's towel.'
"Babe, please tell me ya got my last ride....
...hey what's that Olympic sized monstrosity doin' eating up our beach!"

If you really must know how feeble Surfing stacks up....(Close yer eyes)
Shh! You didn't read it here!
Tokyo Olympics is priced well & above the World Surfing League

Ex X gamerz
$107 Chix Skateboard / $167 BMX Bandits
Rival aquatic flotsam & jetsam athletes
$240 Water Polo /$410 Diving / $609 Sych'Swim / $736 Ocean Swim / $1445 Swim

WSL & ISA must surely palm out free entry to Olympic [P] Surfing.
Apologize & withdraw Surfing from all further Olympics or die an undignified death.
Olympic slap in the face is a wake up call knocking surfing back on it's beachbum.
Get the hell outta there & come on home...We'll still love you...(Stop laughing crew!)

Tokyo Olympic Surfing runs (over 4 days) 26/7/2020 - 2/8/2020 ... 7:00 -18:30
Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach (Capacity 6,000) That means 6,000 Finals tickets! (Quick)
20 men + 20 women competing.
Ticket pricing...$40 (No stadium seats -Standing Area Only) re: Page 63

2020 Premium Surf Final 6,000 x $40 =$240,000 @ (Wavepool or Beach)
Olympic 4 day Event recoups $1m'...Oz Govt's palm out $3m for WSL m/w comp.
WSL clearly downgrade Surfing by 66% chasing Olympic Dream...
or State Govt's are ripping us off 66%...tbb will lead fellow crewmates mutiny!

One of Us! One of Us! One of Us!...We are Olympians! BRAINS...BRAINS...BRAINS...

Terminal's picture
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Terminal Monday, 24 Jun 2019 at 9:38pm

hahaha, the wozzle...

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal Monday, 24 Jun 2019 at 9:36pm

It'd be nice to see a Bradbury in the surfing too, Japan would be the place now that the wavepool is off the table. Makes me wonder if there is any buyers remorse with that now...

user's picture
user's picture
user Tuesday, 25 Jun 2019 at 9:35am

let each country choose its own 1 surfer.
have a surf off, winner goes for gold for their country.
thats the olympic way.

fitzroy-21's picture
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fitzroy-21 Tuesday, 25 Jun 2019 at 9:16am

First up, I am in agreeance with most comments above that it makes me sick to the stomach the whole ISA/WSL shit show even exists in the first place on so many levels I don't know where to begin.

To my simple way of thinking, with the Olympics, it's all about an equal playing field. Little to no variables, so it brings out only the best in the athlete. Think athletics, gymnastics, etc,etc. So bringing surfing into the olympics can really only be put into a wave pool to fulfill the even playing field. I can't think of any other sport in the games that is at the complete mercy of mother nature. It is never an even playing field in the ocean.

So why bother?

The whole thing stinks of corporate greed, commercial bastardization for the glorification of a few scumbag grubs. I can only hope the ocean goes completely dead flat for the entire time and the IOC shakes it's head in shame sending the ISA/WSL to the scrapheap.

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb Tuesday, 25 Jun 2019 at 9:28am

maybe sailing, but they all have to use the exact same boat i reckon.

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher Tuesday, 25 Jun 2019 at 7:15pm

Swellnet Olympic team are racing ahead with this, tbb is getting lapped...

Olympic Athletes race Laser Class (generic) Stand Up Sail/boards on a sea circuit. $74
K1 Slalom Rapids Course $134 + Skateboard $155 (note: Medal round prices)
Surfing equals said ticket prices if not more but certainly way more than $40 (insult)

Wavepool home straight laughs at big screen replays of Surfer's cuffed flat feet...

tbb has given reasonable thought to an economic model for 'Olympic style' Surfing...
Although it can't happen with Surfing & Canoe bodies fighting The Great SUP War.
SUP's/Body-Surfers/Kayak already share comps' in built natural river flow waves.
Just don't ever ask who controls a river wave boardrider...tbb never said that!

Wavepools have 20+ settings + K1 rapids course has kickass high speed hydro boost.
Fit & flow ramps, scoop barrels, rev' waves for time trial circuit or judge manoeuvers.
Surfing expands disciplines & SUPs please traditional Surfing / Canoe bodies
Plenty of new surfing forms: foam board derby,mixed relays,enduro runs...unlimited!

Swellnet 'G.W' could loop linear-Hybrid combo flow wave circuit to suit arena seats .
L/R surfers switchfeet (No leggies) Course can even out for fair runs.

Wave designs showcase Eco river banks/estuaries/algal/beach erosion repairs.
Surfers can rid Olympic waste & flow a wave circuit by natural example with pride.
No more Surfers as Wavepool water hogs but a sporting Eco Marine Rangers expo.
Natural earth shaped pools,pond filtering were the norm at NLand Wavepool.

Incorporate a Wave pool @ The Chelsea Flower Show then showcase the Olympics?
None would bat an eyelid! Least of all the Queen! May not even win a blue ribbon!
Near every wave pool has been drained & reshaped over & over...Eco must be easier!

Multi craft course saves bucks for 30,000 seat arena ($200 - $900 Combo Tickets)
Note Weekend's Brazil Oi Pro squeezed in 50,000 (WSL never complained)
Wavepool combo boosting Surfing's value to 3 x more than shitty low starting price !
Note each sport comp runs 4 days, enough to share course & costs to keep Olympics!
Surfing should take the lead to secure the Wavecourse for paralympic surfer adaption.

Wave papers & comp cost examples show eco Olympic hybrid course draws nearer.

IOC / WSL / ISA / ICF together have devalued surfing in every way...fix it or get lost.
Surfing as an Olympic outcast or be squished as the lowest lifeform.(Some choice!)
Declare Tokyo Olympic Surfing as a free exhibition or hand it back to those who care.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher Wednesday, 26 Jun 2019 at 12:26am

MP 23/Dec /2017(above) exposed Pacific Island rift between IOC / WSL / ISA

Olympic qualifying has begun & WSL rankings have already turned on their head.
WSL surfers competing for their home nation have split for a larger Olympic Nation.
WSL flags are not always what current WSL Olympic qualifiers compete under?

Swellnetonians might wanna check out both Mens & Womens WSL rankings...
Well! At first glance it may not show because a bigger game is being played.

5 *U.S men rank top 12. Surfing for 2 Olympic spots in WSL Top 10 (Apr-Dec /2019)
6 *U.S wm's rank top 10. Surfing for 2 Olympic spots in WSL Top 8 (Apr-Dec /2019)
If & only if they can ward off other nations getting in on the 10 / 8 hot spots.

Exactly half - 11 of 22 WSL surfers are surfing in a bi-nation *U.S knockout Comp.
Half again being 5 of the 11 are not *American at all, but represent WSL *Hawaii.
Leftover Hwn/U.S get an invite to ISA Olympic surf off (U.S or Hwn Flag?)

US Olympians carjack the Jeep...Olympics or bust! Brazil/Oz ride back seat for a spell.
Recall 2018 [facebook] viewers judged Air Asia Comps within 1st 3 WSL Oz Comps.
WSL dual comp formats change each season elevating Oz Airs now US/Hwn boost.
Maybe 2020 mystery Comp within a WSL Comp rewards S.Africa Barrel-time?

Bad enough that all Pacific Surfing Islands can't bring home a gold.
Hawaiians lose Flag in Olympics & maybe for WSL (IOC/QF... Apr-Dec @ 4 yrs)
Note: Hawaiian's are currently competing in WSL 'Olympic Qualifier' under own Flag!
Tahitian & Reunion Island surf Olympics likewise under French Flag...& so on & so on...
(Olympics wiping out Pacific Surf culture) Da Hui erupted from similar ring of fire.

tbb checked if Olympic Neutral White Flag can Fly for Pacific Island Surf Nations.
Youth games & past Athletes could compete solo for a Nation under a White Flag'.
Youth Games continue...otherwise White Flag is reserved for stateless or in transit.
tbb guesses youth compete separated from siblings & or parents thru no fault.

Fellow Surfers will ignore Olympic Surfing Flags where it denounces surfer's pride.
Crew respects Pacific Island Nations as birthplace of modern Olympic Surfing.

WSL Hawaii

Olympic Qualifying details link...