INTERVIEW: ISA President Fernando Aguerre shares his vision for the future of SUP (by focusing on the past)
And on the third day he rose again.
Like a prophet arising from his grave, the evergreen President of the International Surfing Association (ISA), surfboard collector and former footwear tycoon Fernando Aguerre has returned from two years of radio silence to address the paddling community. And prophesise he did.
In this 30-minute interview (“monologue” would be more accurate), Fernando opens up about the ISA’s plan for the future of SUP by spending most of his time dunking on the International Canoe Federation (ICF) who are apparently interested in our sport for all the wrong reasons.
Fernando did take a break from throwing shade on the canoe boys to address a couple of interesting topics: For one, the ISA will finally be hiring a dedicated SUP manager this month. It only took them NINE YEARS to fill the position but hey, better late than never, right?
The ISA is also pushing for SUP to be included in the 2028 Olympic Games that will be held in Los Angeles.
This isn’t news of course – the Olympics are the sole reason the ISA still exists – but it would actually make sense as the sport of SUP racing could potentially return to its spiritual home of Doheny State Beach (birthplace of the BOP) for its Olympic debut. Fitting.
Debate continues on whether our sport is deserving of or even ready for a place in the Olympic Games (I say nay), but if you really want to see an Olympic SUP race then it may be happening as soon as 2028. What the ISA plans to contribute to our sport in those next seven years remains to be seen.
I actually have a lot of respect for El Presidente even though we regularly disagree, to put it mildly (I don’t think I’m on Fernando’s xmas card list). The flamboyant, bow-tie-wearing Argentinian – who has more than 100 vintage surfboards hanging on the ceiling of his La Jolla mansion – has gotten more done in this sport than most, and he’s nothing if not passionate about the ocean. But the ISA’s fixation on the past and this whole jealous-lover style obsession with the ICF is hampering not only their own efforts but the progress of the sport itself.
(If one of the criticisms of the ISA has been their lack of leadership, innovation and vision for the future then this video probably won’t change much.)
I also don’t agree that just because our sport was born of surfing means we should stick with surfing (we’re clearly a flatwater sport these days). SUP racing has always been its own thing, and an Olympic federation should only be there to work alongside the community in developing the sport and potentially open up the Olympics. This whole argument shouldn’t even be about choosing sides because I feel neither federation has the experience nor resources to truly govern stand up paddling. In my opinion, the first federation to realise and admit they cannot win this fight (because there is no end-game) will be the one to win the support of the community.
It’s also interesting that the ICF don’t view the Olympic fight as being over despite the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in the ISA’s favour last August. Alas, that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, let’s all stand around ye disciples and listen to the man talketh (he likes to talk). This interview throws up more questions than answers but at the very least it’s entertaining to watch (and does actually address a couple of good points) so take a look below and cast judgement thyselves.
Full credit goes to Mike from Stand Up Magazin – one of the most active media outlets in the sport over the past decade – for getting this interview. Despite El Presidente’s assertion that he will reply to anyone from the SUP community on whatsapp or Instagram (I’ve tested this claim, it wouldn’t hold up in court), and despite insisting the ISA has “not been silent at all” over the past two years, this is the first we’ve heard from Fernando since 2019.
I hope to setup a Facebook live session with Mike in the next few days to chat about this and many other topics in the sport–because few people are as passionate about SUP’s future as the boss man of Stand Up Magazin.
(I’ve also sent yet another whatsapp invitation to Fernando to come and have a friendly chat on SUP Racer but I’m not holding my breath)
UPDATE: Mike and I will be live on Facebook on Friday morning Hawaii time. Join us for an in-depth debate about the future of stand up paddling 😉 (still no reply from Fernando…)
SUP Racer x Stand Up Magazin LIVE
= 10am Friday Hawaii
= 12pm Friday California
= 3pm Friday Florida
= 5pm Friday Brazil
= 9pm Friday France/Germany/Spain/etc
= 5am Saturday Japan
= 6am Saturday Australia (QLD)
= 7am Saturday Australia (NSW/VIC)