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The Inertia

Editor’s Note: This feature is presented by our partners at the ISA.


The 2022 ISA World Surfing Games are live from Huntington Beach, Calif., and so far both the athletes and the conditions have been delivering. “The consistency is amazing today,” says Barton Lynch from the commentator’s booth. And it’s hard to disagree. Today sees clean and pumping swell on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier, as the world’s best duke it out for Olympic qualification.

The motto of the ISA is “a better world through surfing,” and that vibe was evident from the opening ceremonies onwards. Surfing is not a team sport, but the way that surfers come together on the ISA stage to represent their countries and celebrate the sport as a whole just feels different.

Kanoa Airs at huntington beach

Huntington Beach local Kanoa Igarashi takes to the air while surfing for Team Japan. Photo: Ben Reed//ISA.

“Usually surfing is such an individual sport, you’re kind of on your own program,” said Kolohe Andino. “But here you get all the merch and you get the flag and you root on your fellow teammates.”

One thing that has brought all the countries together this year has been support for Ukraine and the surfers here in Huntington Beach representing the war-torn country. “When Ukraine was on the stage at the opening ceremony, suddenly everyone was standing up. It was so loud, everyone was clapping with so much support,” said Nina Zavodchykova. The Ukranian hails from the town of Slavutych in northern Ukraine, which was invaded in March. “It was so powerful I literally cried in gratitude. It’s just incredible.”

Ukraine ISA World Surfing Games

Nina Zavodchykova is congratulated by her team after a strong performance in the water. Photo: Sean Evans/ISA.

“The international surfing community is huge and covers every part of the globe, but no matter where we might be from, or the color of our skin, or the language we speak, or the religion we follow, we are a family. We are bound together by our passion for the ocean,” said ISA President Fernando Aguerre. “When one member of a family hurts, the other members also feel it. The incredible show of support for Ukraine from every other team is a testament to that, as is the grief we all feel this week after the devastating loss of our brother Kalani David. We carry that spirit with us throughout this week’s competition.”

Standout performances so far include a 9.00 yesterday by Championship Tour Rookie of the Year Gabriela Bryan, who will be looking to back up the gold medal she won at the 2019 ISA World Juniors in Huntington Beach. Two days ago saw the highest heat total of the event so far with a 9.33 and a 7.67 from Griffin Colapinto, and a similarly strong score from current Challenger Series rankings leader Rio Waida of Indonesia, who put together a 9.00 and a 7.00 to avoid elimination in the repechage rounds after a surprising loss in round one.

“Tokyo 2020 was very big for me,” said Waida. “It changed my life for sure. I want to go to Paris 2024, that’s my goal. I hope I can win this event and I hope I can get the [Olympic] spot.”

Also on the docket for today is the first public screening of The Impossible Wave, which documents surfing’s 27-year-long journey to reach the Olympic stage. If you’re in Huntington Beach, find your way to the Pier Plaza, just north of the Huntington Beach Pier by 7 p.m. to watch Fernando Aguerre’s quest for Olympic surfing.

If you’re not in Huntington Beach, tune in via ISAsurf.org where the event will be live streamed, and be sure not to miss finals day, this Saturday September 24, where ISA medals – both team and individual – will be awarded, and Olympic qualification for 2024 will be determined.

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