The return of the WSG to Huntington Beach is emotional for Aguerre. In 1996 it was the location of his inaugural event as president and the first ISA competition to be called the World Surfing Games. It was there that he first spoke publicly of his ambitions for Olympic Surfing. He initiated the Sands of the World ceremony for the first time. It was also where he created the unique concept of a copper medal, in order to not leave the fourth-place finalist empty-handed.
Speaking of that event Aguerre shared, “It was just one of those special moments and that was the time that I informed the world that we had this vision, this dream for surfing to be in the OIympics. Of course, I immediately had people ask if I needed to call the doctor to see what was wrong with me.
“But you start with a crazy idea, and then you make a plan, and then it becomes a reality. And this is where we are today. This event is an Olympic qualifier. It’s the second Olympic cycle in the history of surfing.”
Other dignitaries in attendance at the Opening Ceremony included IOC Vice President, Nicole Hoevertsz, IOC Executive Board Member, Nawal El-Moutawakel, IOC Member & President of the International Triathlon Union, Marisol Casado, IOC Member & President of World Athletics, Lord Sebastian Coe, IOC Member, Filomena Fortes, IOC Member, Seung Min Ryu, IOC Sports Director, Kit McConnell, the Mayor of Huntington Beach, Barbara Delgleize and CEO of Visit Huntington Beach, Kelly Miller.
Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize was happy to see so many faces from around the world in her town, “I want to wish all of you representing the 51 countries the best of luck this week, like the legendary surfer Phil Edwards once said, ‘The best surfer out there is the one that’s having the most fun!’”
After sharing the extensive surf history and many accomplishments of Surf City USA, Visit Huntington Beach CEO, Kelly Miller, said, “We are proudly welcoming this event. Seven times, more than any other city in the ISA’s history, and I can tell you that we are totally stoked, without question. The road to Paris 2024 truly runs through Surf City USA.”
Earlier in the day two Tokyo 2020 Olympians, Kolohe Andino (USA) and Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), joined Miller and President Aguerre at the official press conference.
Competing in an ISA event for the first time in 2006 at the age of 13, Andino always relishes the opportunity to represent his country. “Usually surfing is such an individual sport, you’re kind of on your own program,” he said. “But here you get all the merch and you get the flag and you root on your fellow teammates.”
The landscape of women’s surfing has changed significantly since Sally Fitzgibbons won the first of her three gold medals in 2008. “In terms of surfing there’s a lot of momentum and a lot of change, especially in my time and my career,” she said. “The road to Paris for me, being a part of that first cycle, I think it consolidates that surfing is here to stay as an Olympic sport.”
Reflecting on his 26-year journey to see surfing’s debut in the Olympics, President Aguerre shared the process, “First it’s unthinkable, then it’s impossible, and then our job, the ones who want the change, is to make it inevitable.”
The 2022 WSG presented by Visit Huntington Beach is set to begin with men’s competition at 7:30am, Saturday, September 17, at Huntington Beach Pier Southside.