ISA World Surfing Games hit Surf City; Will the Olympics follow?

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Is the ISA World Surfing Gameswhich began on Friday and will continue until September 24 on the south side of the Huntington Beach pier, will it be a test for possible Olympic surfing in six years?

Visit Huntington Beach President and CEO Kelly Miller hopes that will be the case as the Olympics return to Los Angeles in 2028.

“There were no spectators in 2020, and we’re in a bit of a remote place in 2024,” Miller said. “I think 2028 will be an opportunity for families, for competitors, for the whole world to come and experience the Games. Surfing brings a whole new energy to the Games, and I think if we want to amplify that and develop it, I think Huntington Beach should definitely be one of the sites heavily considered by LA 2028.”

It was easy to have the Olympics on your mind as surfers from dozens of countries descend on Surf City. Huntington Beach is hosting the World Surfing Games for the first time since 2006 and the fourth time overall.

Visit HB is hosting the event, which is the first Olympic qualifier for this cycle as surfers look to Paris in 2024.

A press conference was held at Visit HB’s downtown headquarters on Friday morning with Miller, ISA President Fernando Aguerre, Team USA surfer Kolohe Andino and Team Australia surfer Sally Fitzgibbons.

Left to right, Sally Fitzgibbons, Australian team surfer; Kelly Miller, President and CEO of Visit Huntington Beach; Fernando Aguerre, president of the ISA; and Team USA surfer Kolohe Andino; during a press conference for the ISA World Surfing Games on Friday.

(Kevin Chang / personal photographer)

“We thought about that day four or five years ago when we designed this desk,” joked Miller. “You walk through the door and you will see five circles of light. That’s all I’m saying.

A few hours later, athletes from every country marched down Main Street towards Pier Plaza, where the opening ceremonies were taking place.

The amount of talent available is impressive. Huntington Beach native Kanoa Igarashi, a silver medalist at last year’s first Olympic surfing event in Tokyo, is competing for Team Japan this week.

Andino, a San Clemente native, and Fitzgibbons were also Olympic surfers last summer. Andino advanced to the quarter-finals before being eliminated by Igarashi, while Fitzgibbons also fell in the women’s quarter-finals.

“To be honest, more than surfing needs the Olympics, I think the Olympics need surfing,” Andino said. “I think the Olympics are pretty bland and boring, and surfing is the best sport in the world. You add surfing to the Olympics, I think more people are going to watch it.

Australian team surfer Sally Fitzgibbons speaks at a press conference for the ISA World Surfing Games on Friday.

Australian team surfer Sally Fitzgibbons speaks during a press conference for the ISA World Surfing Games at Visit Huntington Beach on Friday.

(Kevin Chang / personal photographer)

Fitzgibbons, a 31-year-old tour veteran, said she first stepped foot in the sand at Huntington Beach nearly two decades ago. She’s also excited to be competing in this latest ISA team competition, and she made an analogy with tennis.

“We see people like Roger Federer wrap up his career,” Fitzgibbons said. “You look at this, and you say to yourself, how do you conclude such an important work? He’s going back to the Laver Cup, a team event, and there’s something about that. It’s really significant. You’re competing for something bigger than yourself, and you’re really connecting to the reason you started surfing, to those feelings, and to that energy. I think it will be a great week.

The nation with the most points at the end of the men’s and women’s competitions next Saturday will automatically earn an Olympic berth for their country, Aguerre said. The surfer who actually occupies this slot can be chosen later by the country.

Australian Peter “PT” Townend of Huntington Beach was one of the best surfers in the world in the 1970s and 1980s. He also attended the press conference and asked Andino and Fitzgibbons if they would try to qualify again for the Olympics.

Andino was quick to respond.

“100%,” he said. “It’s like wondering if the sun will rise tomorrow.”

The open men’s competition at the ISA World Surfing Games begins Saturday morning, while the women’s competition begins Monday so as not to interfere with this weekend’s Supergirl event in Oceanside. Other surfers competing for Team USA include Griffin Colapinto of San Clemente and Nat Young of Santa Cruz on the men’s side, while Gabriela Bryan of Hawaii, Zoe McDougall of Hawaii and Kirra Pinkerton of San Clemente compete on the women’s side. women.

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