|Fernando Aguerre - President, ISA|
|Profile of the week|
Tuesday, 25 November 2014 10:56
Fernando Aguerre is President of the International Surfing Association (ISA), a position he has held since 1994.
Fernando has been the primary driver of the Federation’s growth & development for the last 20 years.
Fernando has enjoyed 40 years of successful business leadership in the action sports industry.
He was the Founder, President & CEO of surf brand Reef, an industry leader in footwear and apparel, from 1984 to 2005. Fernando sold Reef in 2005 to VF, one of the largest global manufacturers of action sportswear.
By Tariq Saleh
What inspired you to become the President of ISA?
I’ve surfed all my life. I grew up in Argentina and I’ve surfed since I was in grade school so all my life I’ve been in the surfing industry working for the promotion of the sport, so for me it was natural.Twenty two years ago, I surfed in the ISA World Championship in 1992.
Two years later I was elected president, and I really wanted to give back to the sport. I think it’s a sport that has some wonderful values and has a lot to give to the world and to young people – so it has always been my inspiration.
Surfing is not just something that I talk about or something that I work for, surfing is what I do, surfing is my life. For me, being an ambassador of the sport is a way of giving back for everything that the sport has given me and continues to give me.
What challenges have you faced in this role over the years?
The biggest challenge is that surfing isn’t a sport that really requires a membership to a club, because in most sports you need courts or tracks or fields, which normally need to be built and you affiliate with a club by paying a membership which allows you to use those courts, tracks or fields.
But our “courts or fields” have been made by nature, so they’re open to everybody. In that sense, surfing is a very democratic sport because you don’t need any permits to go to the ocean - it’s like walking in the street.
So that very open and democratic nature of the sport has also been a challenge because there’s not really a need for people to come together to practice the sport as members of clubs or associations. Surfing has been around for hundreds of years, but organized surfing (the ISA and national federations) started in 1964.
From the point of view of Olympic participation of our sport, we have been already included in many regional multisport games, like the South Pacific, South American Beach Games, Asian Beach Games, and the Bolivarian Games.
The real challenge is to have the ability to guarantee the delivery of quality waves all day, every day at a competition site – something we are overcoming with the development of revolutionary wave technology that can be applied cost-effectively in a host city.
How has the sport grown under your leadership?
When I arrived at ISA 20 years ago there were just about 30 nations (members national federations) in the ISA and today there are 91, so we have tripled the amount. We just recognised the 90th (Nepal) and 91st (Bangladesh). But a big boost for our sport was in 1995, a year after I was elected, our organisation was recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
That paved the way for relationships between our national federations and the National Olympic Committees (NOC) and sports ministers around the world. One of our main focuses has been to institutionalise the sport so we’re speaking to the relevant stakeholders in each country.
We’re not just running World Championships. We’re actually promoting the sport and it has been my role and mission for the last 20 years to make the sport more understandable for the people that don’t practice it. Educating and teaching people about how to learn the sport faster and easier has also been part of what we do – we have around 2000 ISA certified surfing instructors and coaches around the world so we’re big on education.
What region is Surfing most popular in the world and are there any regions or markets you wish to reach to maximise the sport?
Traditionally, surfing started in Hawaii and from there migrated to California and to Australia. There was an Olympic multi gold medallist swimmer, a Hawaiian by the name of Duke Kahanamoku (pictured right) and he took the sport to the West Coast of the United States and to Australia first at the beginning of the 20th century.
From there it moved to other islands and other areas of the South Pacific near Australia and also to the whole US and then it moved to Europe.
After this, surfing was practiced in the US, a little bit in Central America but mainly Australia, New Zealand, US and Western Europe.
In the last 20 years we’ve focused on Latin America. The American continents have 42 nations, 40 of which are on the ocean and with good waves so it’s a very special place. In the last three or four years we have also focused on Africa and Asia.
For example, we’re running the ISA China Cup which includes a Chinese surfing team for the first time in the competition, so there’s been a huge effort to take surfing to the largest populated nation in the world. The latest ISA member federations have been Algeria, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Cayman Islands, Nauru, Nepal and Bangladesh – there are a lot of Asian, Pacific and African nations included there.
ISA has been recognised by the IOC but still isn’t an Olympic sport, do you believe it can become an Olympic sport one day?
Yes, I’m convinced that surfing could be a very solid sport in the Summer Games.
If you think of the Olympic ideals we have all of that, we have universal appeal, we are in all five continents with federations. And this is a sport that requires you to be in excellent shape – it’s a clean sport. We’ve been running anti-doping tests for all finalists for all World Championships for the last 22 years. I’m very keen on having a clean sport.
Additionally, surfing is a youth sport by definition. If the IOC wants to be increasingly relevant to the youth of the world, surfing would certainly be adding value in that sense.
Surfing is a sport that is intrinsically youthful, loved by young people. We don’t have any regard for wealth, status, race, creed, gender or age, which means that there are surfers of all social and economical levels – there’s no “wealth barrier”, surfing doesn’t have that.
We also have humanitarian and environmental surf based NGOs because surfers travel to places where we encounter a lot of humanitarian crises and people in need of help. There are a lot of surfers who participate in humanitarian and environmental organisations because our sport is, literally, submerged in nature.