The International Surfing Association is a lot of things. It’s recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for Surfing. Its membership includes national governing bodies on five continents – a total of 71 countries, with Liberia recently announced as the 71st. It’s involved in almost everything to do with wave riding and the ocean, including alliances with Surfrider Foundation, Save the Waves, SurfAid International, and a lot more. It holds contests all over the world for surfing, stand-up paddling, bodyboarding, kneeboarding, and tandem surfing. Basically, surfing (on anything) wouldn’t be where it is today without the ISA.
Way back in 1964, during the first World Surfing Championships near Sydney, Australia, the ISF (International Surfing Federation) was created. It gathered most of the surfing nations together and put on a world championship event. It stayed that way for a little over a decade until 1976, when the ISF gave way to the ISA (International Surfing Association).
Since 1994, it has been presided over by a man named Fernando Aguerre, an Argentinian who relocated to California. When asked what he does in life, he’ll tell you that he’s a bridge builder, bringing people together to build a better world. This is an interview with him.
What is the function of your role at the ISA?
As the president, I’m responsible for managing all matters of the organization, and as head of the Executive Committee, I manage all strategic and tactical matters. The EC includes the President, four VPs (Alan Atkins from Australia, Karin Sierralta from Peru, Debbie Beacham from the USA, and Layne Beachley from Australia).
What are some of the things the ISA is involved in?
Besides organizing and finding hosts for our World Championship Series – which includes SUP, paddleboarding, bodyboarding, tandem, and kneeboarding – the ISA runs some development programs that have been and are the foundations of the development of surfing around the world: ISA Coaching and Surfing Instructor Program, ISA Judging Program, and the ISA Individual Scholarship. This last one distributes financial resources to under 18-year-old boys and girls that are both great students and promising surfing athletes. I personally serve as spokeperson for the organization, be that during a press conference in our events, presiding over the Opening Ceremony and the Closing and Medal Award Ceremony at those events, to communicating with sponsors, top government officials. I met with the President of Panama in April, during the ISA Juniors.
Did the ISA face any criticism for the China event?
None whatsoever. The ISA’s mission in China is to bring the beach culture to China, including our respect and protection of the oceans and its waves as a very special resource for all to share. If I do receive any, I will deal with it the way I have always dealt with opinions and comments about what I do: with an open minded, an open heart, and trying to find value in the criticism to evolve my understanding of life and cultures around the world. I am a person of values, and at the same time, I do believe that a better world is that in which diverse cultures learn from the values of other cultures. I want to continue to grow and help people in their pursuit of happiness.
The next event is in Nicaragua. What goes into something like that?
Lots of planning and hard work. First of all, we need to find local individuals and organizations that have a principled and professional way of doing things. Then we involve the local private and public sectors. If properly managed, visiting surfers could add lots of value to local economy and cultures. Nothing is all good or all bad. A knife could be great when having dinner, or could be used to commit a crime. The knife is not bad or good. The intentions and actions of the person using the knife is what could be bad or good.