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Surfing’s Olympic future in good health after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes to include surfing on the sports programme for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The vote, by the IOC membership, came today during the 134th IOC session in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Final ratification will be made by the IOC executive board, after the sport makes its much-anticipated landmark debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Today’s announcement moves surfing even closer to long-term Olympic inclusion.

For New Zealand surfers this gives our current top-ranked surfers another performance peak to aim for and throws an enticing challenge out to the young athletes coming through the ranks. A breakout from any of these younger surfers would almost certainly propel them into consideration for Olympic selection.

With Paris 2024 looming New Zealand surfers like Paige Hareb now have another peak event to fuel their motivation. Photo: Stewart Campi @SCampiphoto

Perhaps even more significant is the assurance of surfing being a part of the Olympics in the future and the bearing that has on the funding within the sport and for our elite athletes right here in New Zealand. Flow on from there and it should open up and enhance existing career pathways for those emerging athletes.

“Olympic recognition helps the sport become more accepted. This increases the base of surfers, learn to surf programmes and school initiatives being put in place. The wider base of surfers and increased public profile is also attractive to partners and that is an area we have to work on as an organisation.”

Ben Kennings, Surfing New Zealand

“Today’s IOC announcement is great for our athletes and the sport here in New Zealand,” offers Ben Surfing NZ’s Kennings. “In a wider context, Olympic recognition helps the sport become more accepted. This increases the base of surfers, learn to surf programmes and school initiatives being put in place. The wider base of surfers and increased public profile is also attractive to partners and that is an area we have to work on as an organisation.”

Surfing was first added to the Olympic sports programme for Tokyo 2020 at the 129th IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The International Surfing Association (ISA) is looking ahead to Paris 2024 to create a pathway to permanent inclusion in the programme in Los Angeles 2028 and beyond.

“This is another amazing day for Olympic surfing, as we move one step closer to Paris 2024 and long-term Olympic inclusion,” announced ISA President Fernando Aguerre. “I want to personally thank both the IOC membership and the Paris 2024 organising committee for believing in our sport and for recognizing the value it brings. We are humbled and honoured by the confidence placed in us.”

Kennings said the IOC commitment would give High Performance Sport NZ more confidence to invest in surfing given the long term Olympic stability.

“Inclusion at LA 2028 will also help,” he said. “Again, it will be up to the organisation to put plans in place that will produce results on the Olympic stage and make the most of the opportunity”

“Surfing is a sport for the new era of the Games, a sport that is truly ‘Made For Sharing’ in line with Paris 2024 values,” Aguerre added. “Surfing combines high-performance action with a connection to the environment, sustainability and self-improvement. Surfing aligns perfectly with Paris 2024 and the Olympic values and we’re proud to have the chance to continue our journey with the IOC.”

“This is another amazing day for Olympic surfing, as we move one step closer to Paris 2024 and long-term Olympic inclusion.”

Fernando Aguerre, ISA President

Paris 2024 has announced a public tender process for the selection of the host venue for surfing. The process will be conducted in coordination with the ISA and the French Surfing Federation. It will begin immediately with expressions of interest.  It will include a technical evaluation and site visits in the months of July and August, with the aim of announcing the host venue in December 2019.

“In Tokyo, we have the opportunity to show surfing’s unique youthful personality and socially-engaged athletes to the world and cement our position within the movement,” offers Aguerre. “Our Olympic Surfing Festival promises to be a truly innovative element to the programme, showcasing our sport’s vibrant culture. I am positive that, together with our partners in Tokyo, we can bring a new dynamic youth appeal and leave a lasting legacy for Japan, the Games and our sport.”

Ricardo Christie has to be in the running for Tokyo 2020, but who will be the New Zealand surfers to line up at Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028? Photo: Stewart Campi @SCampiphoto

France has an incredibly rich surfing tradition and has hosted some of the most important events on the ISA and World Surf League calendars.

“Together with the French Surfing Federation and the Paris 2024 organisers, I’m certain we can put together an event that inspires the nation and continues to celebrate our sport’s unique value and culture on a global stage,” Aguerre shares.

Kennings said long term inclusion in the Olympics was important for the ISA, too.

“The ISA will see greater financial support from the IOC through Olympic broadcast rights when surfing is a permanent fixture at the Olympics. This will have a trickledown effect for the sport.”

Surfing in the Olympics may never match the Pipe Masters for intensity and spectacle, but it certainly frames our sport in a golden light. For New Zealand, that can only be a good thing.

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