Why This Year's ISA World Surfing Games Could be the Most Important Event in Years


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Updated 12d ago

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In a couple days time, 52 countries will compete at the ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador. This year's event holds special weight though, and could be one of the most important events in surfing's history. Love it or hate it, this is the final qualifying competition for the Olympics – and it's why a whole range of the world's best surfers are in South America right now.

Just look at that Brazil team for the World Surfing Games; Filipe, Gabriel Medina, Tati Weston-Webb. That's going to be hard to beat. The US have lost Kolohe, Kelly and JJF to injury and while that's a blow for them, it certainly opens the playing field for other countries to swoop in for ISA world title and individuals to potentially qualify for the Olympics, which are set to run this year in July. Of course, it marks the first time surfing has been part of the Olympics.

So far, a whole load of people have provisionally qualified (see below) and there's just a few slots left for people to compete in the Olympics. Those slots are reserved for those who do well in this week's ISA World Surfing Games. The stakes are pretty high.

Forecast: El Sunzal, El Salvador

Recap on the men's grand final from 2019.

Anyway, the whole qualifying process has been fairly confusing, with multiple events, people qualifying, more events and etc etc, so let's try to break it all down here.

How to qualify?
The key elements of the qualification system are as follows:
*20 men, 20 women.
*Maximum of 2 surfers per gender per National Olympic Committee (NOC).
*Qualification spots will be earned on an individual basis, by name.
*In accordance with IOC guidelines, the qualification events have been determined in hierarchical order of qualification, as further explained below; If two surfers of a gender have qualified through the first hierarchical order, that NOC will not be able to qualify more surfers of that gender through qualifying events lower in hierarchical order.
*All surfers selected by their respective National Federations for their national teams must participate in 2019 and/or 2021 ISA World Surfing Games in order to be eligible for Olympic qualification. The final details of the eligibility requirements are still under review by the ISA and the IOC.

The hierarchical order of qualification will be as follows:
1. 2019 World Surf League Championship Tour (WSL CT): First 10 eligible men and first 8 eligible women.
2. 2021 ISA World Surfing Games: First 4 eligible men and first 6 eligible women.
3. 2019 ISA World Surfing Games: 4 men and 4 women selected based on their continent. Top finishing eligible surfer of each gender from Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania.
4. 2019 Pan American Games: First eligible man and first eligible woman in the surfing competitions.
5. Host nation slot: One man and one woman slot will be guaranteed for the host nation of Japan, unless already filled through the above hierarchies. Should athletes from Japan qualify regularly, their slots will be reallocated to the highest ranked eligible surfers from the 2020 World Surfing Games.

So some people have already qualified then?
Provisionally, yes!

Through the 2019 CT there is Jordy Smith, Kolohe Andino, JJF, Kanoa Igarashi, Jeremy Flores, Michel Bourez, Gabe Medina, Italo Ferreira, Owen Wright, Julian Wilson, Sally Fitzgibbons, Steph Gilmore, Johanne Defay, Tatiana Weston-Webb, Silvana Lima, Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks and Brisa Hennessy.

2021 ISA world Surfing Games: 5 slots for the men TBD during this comp and 7 slots for the women.

2019 ISA World Surfing Games qualifiers: Shun Murakami, Ramzi Boukhiam, Billy Stairmand, Frederico Morais, Shino Matsuda, Anat Lelior, Bianca Buitendag and Ella Williams.

Lima 2019: Lucca Mesinas and Daniella Rosas.

As you can see, there's still the last remaining places up for grabs for Olympic qualification.

And watch Peru's Sofia Mulanovich take down Silvana Lima, Carissa Moore and Bianca Buitendag.

Surf City El Salvador ISA World Surfing Games 2021 – When's it taking place?
The event will take place between May 29 and June 6 at La Bocana and El Sunzal, where it's been pumping for the past week or so plus. The forecast? There'll be a fun-size SW swell over the weekend of the 29th-30th and into the 31st larger, long lasting SW swell the 1st through the 4th; likely strongest the 2nd-3rd fading, but fun and still very rippable surf over the weekend of the 5th-6th. The full schedule hasn't been revealed yet, but the opening ceremony will kick off on May 28 at 3pm.

For the list of the 52 nations competing, go HERE and click the 'teams' tab.

How can I watch it?
The ISA will be streaming the event live, and you can catch it HERE.

Cover shot by Billy Watts