Anecdotally, if we wish to compare the current situation of the ICF versus the ISA akin to an argument over an adopted child (as suggested by Chris Parker - supracer.com) it’s only reasonable to assume SUP (the child) is a wayward, ill disciplined, teenager advancing through puberty, where it also assumes to be mature and grown up, but is in fact, at the dumbest and most vulnerable phase of its life.
Frankly, it’s about time the SUP community acknowledged the part is has played in fuelling this mess and in this I would include, the media in all forms, influential athletes, the pioneers and an endless procession of arm chair wanna-be prognosticators, who have sided larger on the side of surfing as being SUPs must logical bed-fellow and saviour.
Ironically, no profound logical explanation has been given as to why it should be so; mostly it’s about marketing and the romantic idea that SUP should be ‘classified’ as a surf sport pandering to those who do not in fact surf, but nevertheless ‘wanna-be’ part of all that it represents, regardless of historical precedents beyond any contemporary association with the Hawaiian Islands, in resolute denial the paddle forms a not insignificant part of the equation, without which; well, you know the rest . . .
The ultimate counterpoise to this remains the indisputable reality, SUPs greatest exponents, when it comes to flat out related paddling speed, hail largely from outrigger canoeing or even surf ski backgrounds, not to mention the dormant gene pool of talented paddlers yet to be enticed, living behind the ocean’s shorelines inland throughout Europe and indeed the USA and elsewhere. That this is ignored, makes this one of the dumbest debates in the history of anything.
If you love SUP and you want it to grow (survive) an association with surfing, while initially tantalising from a marketing stand point, is rapidly becoming a benign, baseless stand point from where growth can manifest. Surfing in comparison to paddle sports, is but a mere speck in terms of global participation numbers, its omnipresent status limited by that essential ingredient by which it is defined; waves for the surfing of.
Insofar as either party ‘speaking’ to someone within the SUP community, to whom should they talk to exactly given that SUP is devoid of ‘one voice’ via the mechanism of an international NGB? All the while that SUP continues to be asleep at the wheel, having failed to create ‘said body’ with global affiliated and aligned associates, the situation is as it is and symptomatic of the SUP’s lack of universal cohesion. I note however at the ISAs website, it ‘Recognises’ the Stand Up Paddle Athletes Association (SUPAA) which I take be a token patronage.
Consequently, it is of little surprise we have two differing, juxtaposed sports squabbling over SUP, a result of a lack of collective agreement and ultimate failure to define what the sport is, despite a historical lineage of ‘standing and paddling’ being evidenced as far back as ancient Africa and indeed still practiced in one guise or another, transcending idealogical notions that the Hawaiian Islands remain SUP’s rightful birth place.
Precedent and first of type users are not insignificant in this debate and further to this, was it ever appropriate in the first instance, that the ISA became involved, effectively muscling their way in to claim ownership? Clearly hundreds thought so and supported the ISA Worlds accordingly in the belief, here was an organisation who ‘cared’ thereby giving the ISA the kudos and gravitas it was seeking. In one fell swoop, it seemed that SUP should be defined as a variant of surfing, validated by the herd mentality. Ironically the only defence with which the ISA wields its apparent ‘Right to Govern’ at this point in time, is singularly based upon their being the first taxi to leave the rank to pick up the sport; but if you’re smart, you’ll figure out, this does not make it right, nor expedient to assume they should be now handed the sport on a plate.
Irrespective, by virtue of the ISA wanting to be at the front of the queue, alluding to being SUPs best friend, their motives should have been questioned way back when they first rushed in, when you should know that surfers hate SUP and by default, its members have no time for the sport. The global reach of the ISA is limited to where there is surf in case you have not figured this out yet in the same way as I am sure, there’s not much call for the establishment of a Snow Skiing Association in Morocco or Namibia.
Neither should we concur that SUP is harmoniously ‘Self Governing’ as it has been suggested; certainly ‘Self Serving’, via an autonomous collective of disenfranchised stake-holders, who are poles apart in being unified under any singular banner of an International NGB and all that this implies. As is stands, both the ICF and ISA, in the absence of an International NGB, can do no more than appeal to individuals to side with them and show a vote of confidence simply by participating at their quasi World Championships.
The legal facts of the matter would seem to make it implicit, neither can in fact lay claim to a sport that has no existing International NGB to whom they can refer to for a consensus of support. Further to this, I fail to see how any Court of Law can rule in favour either way given the status quo, as this would amount to a benign dictatorship assigning power to a political party who has no followers, but merely a confused mass of rogue and random participants who are seemingly not in fact ready for Governance. Frankly it’s still too early. Ultimately if SUP forms an NGB inso far as any Court Ruling is concerned, said NGB will have to challenge the decision as unlawful, premature and dictatorial.
It’s important to understand in Europe how the ISA went about building a case for ownership of SUP and control. It was not in fact by holding so-called 'World Championships' all of which had precious little legitimacy and had all the hallmarks of a three ring circus, but indeed it was through dictating to their Member Associates (the likes of the Portuguese Surfing Federation et al) that they, the ISA, had taken charge of the sport and that was that. This is the key factor which served to close down the ICF event in Portugal, because the law of the lands says, the PSF are in charge - and there you have it - surfing rules over paddling.
This has led to these ISA members passing this status quo on to its members (surf schools and the like) who then went on to make this clear to its councils, municipalities etc and in doing so this created an ill thought out level of legitimacy at local and national levels within these countries. By comparison, the ISA has no power to act in this way in the USA, thankfully.
Surf schools on surf beaches, were now controlling the teaching of SUP from dangerous, unfit for purpose venues; teaching a sport about which they knew little about or cared for; worse still the ISA instructor training courses were as good as worthless at this time (2009 thereabouts) and indeed they extended to a mere few minutes bolt on course for ISA surf instructors. Why? Because the ISA had not the first clue about paddle sports and added to this, their locations for teaching SUP, were of course located in venues largely unfit for purpose.
By the same measure, many Kayak and Canoeing instructors wanted to qualify as SUP instructors, located from the mountains to the sea. The ICF have always had an interest in SUP regardless of what spin the ISA tell you and and this is due to the ICF’s affiliates creating bolt on instructor courses for its Member Affiliate Countries and it is in fact a long list to which you can add the likes of the American Canoeing Association and the British Canoe Union.
Meanwhile the ISA have made precious little progress; indeed Canoeing and Kayaking associations have made better progress and created ever sounder foundation courses, being as the paddle is the primary modus operandi.
Because of this 'perceived control' other stake-holders are all but shut of a number of countries on account of ill founded support from Government Departments who in ignorance have, without thinking or making a study of the sport, reinforced the ISAs gravitas, so much so that insurers will not cover other qualifications regardless that they are in fact better (safer) and are far in a way more advanced.
I can say without question, this insatiable need for the ISA to control has had and continues to have a misalignment with the fundamental virtues of stand up paddle sport and recreation, suffocating the life out of it, not breathing life into it from which it can expand openly within the correct geographical and topographical regions of the world from which greater numbers can up take-up this simple, functional paddling experience.
Let’s be clear, the ISA are total newbies to the Olympic movement and have yet to administer their first Olympic Games and therefore it’s historically impulsive and premature to give them gravitas for something they have to date zero experience of.
Development of a sport, does not mean laying a few course markers and staging a race. True development comes from nurturing training, coaching, education, junior development and so on, not from racing per se. By comparison, the ICF was established in 1946 and the first paddle sports events appeared at the Olympics in the mid 1920s.
That the ICF want to embrace SUP under its affiliation, is far from baseless, being as they interpret SUP as a paddle sport, whereas the ISA interpret it as a surf sport. Add to this end-users own conflicted views of what the sport is, it’s a sport in a blender, whizzing around being smashed to bits by a multitude of conflicting beliefs and ideas.
Inevitably the only valid pathway is that SUP forms its own International NGB, which then works to establish affiliated organisations worldwide. This NGB would then consider such issues as the ‘Olympics’ when the timing is right and then enter into discussions with the most appropriate larger umbrella collective IOC affiliated organisation.
Right here, right now, energy spent in forging a pathway for SUP Olympic inclusion is frankly wasted energy at this juncture until even the most basic fundamentals can be agreed upon and that SUP is permitted greater time to mature in order to find itself and its place within sport and recreation holistically rather than in the fractured state it finds itself . . .