SUP Olympia Dreams LA 2028

SUP and Olympia have been a discussion for as long as the sport exists. An Olympic inclusion was the carrot that dangled in front of many athletes and hopes never fainted fully but we all knew the path to the Olympics is long and hard. Now the cat is out of the bag for Los Angeles 2028 and the carrot in now dangling even further away. The ISA just sent out an E-Mail to all the national federations with an update on possible inclusion. Sadly we have to report that yet again it is confirmed: Stand Up Paddling will not be part of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028.

The writing on the wall was there and insiders had their reasonable doubts to begin with. If you know the Olympic system, you know that the number of people being able to participate has a limit. If a new sport is accepted into the games it is at the expense of another sport. We got a hold of an E-Mail that was sent out by the ISA to all national SUP organizations and like to share with you what was written and give some insight and our commentary along with it. (In blue)

Thursday Novemer 2nd 2023

Dear Member Federations,

The ISA is proud to have surfing be an existing Olympic sport and we look forward to the LA28 Olympic Games being a spectacular showcase for shortboard surfing – our selected discipline for these Games.

As you may be aware, International Federations governing sports that are already part of the LA28 Games (including surfing) were invited in April 2022 to propose additional new disciplines and events to the LA28 sports program.

The ISA proposed SUP Racing (Technical Race) and Longboard. Following an initial review, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to classify SUP as a proposed “new discipline” and Longboard as a proposed “new event” of surfing.

Longboarding would be a new sub-event along side of shortboard surfing. We are wondering if it makes sense to prioritize longboarding over SUP. People who follow the WSL know that longboard surfing lacks the viewer ship and that the WSL is struggling with this aspect of surfing. We also wonder at the expense of what sport longboarding would be included.

As a result, the IOC initiated a review process for all newly proposed disciplines in July 2022 and conducted an evaluation process that included technical, venue, format information, participation rates, popularity, media coverage and more for SUP.
Longboard, on the other hand, will only be evaluated after the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris and a decision on its inclusion is expected by December 2024.

We suspect the IOC wants to evaluate how successful shortboard surfing will be this year. Sadly the Olympics just triggered a massive out cry in the surf world due to the plan to construct a massive modern judging tower on the reef in Tahiti. For many people the venue of Teahupo’o was questionable to benign with.

All proposals for new disciplines were evaluated by the IOC’s Olympic Program Commission a few months ago and the decision in the end by the IOC Executive Board during its meeting in Mumbai in late October was not to accept any new disciplines unless an IF was willing to replace an existing discipline. Given this decision by the IOC, SUP was not considered for the LA28 Olympic Games.

Here is the point and we mentioned it before: The inclusion of SUP is depending on an IF (International Federation) to replace the discipline. Somebody tell us why a federation of any sport would be willing to drop one of their own disciplines to make room for a new one that is not related to their own. The ISA has one discipline in the Olympics. The ICF has many. We could also use wing foiling as an example. The International Sailing Federation has many disciplines and could include wing foiling as one of their own. That was in discussion but “Moth Sailing” and “IQ Windsurfing” just became a thing so wing foiling is on the back burner. In case of the ICF, the IOC Court of Arbitration has decided that SUP will only be accepted into the Olympics via the ISA. Given the current situation we might openly question if the SUP Sport is in good hands with the ISA when it comes to Olympic inclusion.

On the back of the hugely successful 2023 ISA World StandUp Paddle and Paddleboard Championships in France a few weeks ago, the ISA reaffirms its strong commitment to the global growth and development of SUP as a surfing discipline, including at an Olympic level.

Strong commitment? The ISA has been far from reliable over the past years and lost much of the goodwill of the SUP community due to late notice of events and lack of communication.

In addition, we saw outstanding SUP action once again during the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games, which reinforces the value of SUP as an Olympic level event.
The ISA’s ambition is to continue to include SUP in more Olympic-related continental and regional multi-sport events. We plan to present a compelling proposition for SUP’s inclusion at the Brisbane Olympic Games in 2032.

This much we have to give the ISA, the inclusion of SUP in the PanAm game is big. This created a huge plat form and opportunity for athletes of the entire American continent.

Brisbane is 9 years out and a whole other discussion. Young and upcoming athletes like Duna Gordillo will be almost 30 years old and juniors like Cecilia Pampinella in their upper 20ties. So realistically for most active SUP athletes in 2023 a participation in the far future like 2032 will be out of the question.

Its unfortunate, but our conversations about the future of the sport will be excluding Olympic dreams in the near term.

While the IOC decision on SUP for LA28 was not what we were hoping for, we encourage you to share this news with your athletes and organizers.
We feel optimistic and confident about the possibility still to include Longboard in the LA28 Program and will inform the Membership in due time.
In the meantime, we will keep the global surfing family updated on this process and our door is always open if you wish to discuss this further or have any questions.

Fernando Aguerre 
Presidente ISA