Over the weekend Super Typhoon Mangkhut smashed into the eastern rim of Asia killing dozens in China, 64 in the Philippines and injuring hundreds in Hong Kong.

Such was the ferocity of the storm the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau closed all 42 of its casinos for the first time. Yep, shit was serious. 

Of course amid the mayhem, there was waves. For surfers from Afghanistan and Argentina, Fiji and France and Greece and Guatemala all stationed in Tahara, Japan for the 2018 Urban Research ISA World Surfing Games (WSG), the opening forecast was good; “Building 5-8’ occ 10’ faces with light offshore flow.” The continued commitment by the ISA and the IOC to surf the Olympics in the ocean, for now, seemed to be paying off. 

Japan on the cook! ISA/Evans

Now the ISA Games hasn’t had a history of generating a whole lot of surfing hype. Historically Tracks has shown very little interest apart from the odd team shot of a green and gold tracksuited bunch of vaguely familiar ex-pro coaches and a zinc-sprayed freckled knot of unidentified surfers smiling beneath an Australian flag. It always just seemed so, well, administraty. And any competition that had an official kneeboard category was hard to take seriously. 

Now that of course was before surfing became an Olympic Sport. Now, suddenly, the WSG has became a very attractive proposition. This week CT surfers Kanoa Igarashi, Sally Fitzgibbons, Paige Hareb and Ian Gouveia are competing against South Korea’s Minwoo Kim, Russia’s Irina Kosobukina, Iran’s Abdolrazagh Balouchi and Hungary’s Gergely Balogh in Tahara’s beachbreaks the for the WSG Title. 

CT surfer Kanoa Igarashi cutting sick for Japan! ISA/Evans

And that’s with these games playing no part in the Tokyo 2020 Qualification process. Now to fully understand that process you need a PHD in Advanced Surf Bureaucracy, with a major in Olympic Slush Funds. However it boils down to this; 

The men and women’s fields for Tokyo will have 20 surfers each. Crucially though there is a maximum of two surfers allowed from each nation. Ten men and eight women will come from the 2019 CT ratings. The rest of the field is determined by results from the 2019 and 2020 WSG, the 2019 Pan American Games, plus a spot each from the host nation Japan. 

Currently Brazil, Australia and the USA account for 31 of the top 36 surfers on the Men’s CT. However those three nations will only get a maximum of six surfers in the Olympic field. France and Portugal should get one or two each from the WSL ranks, leaving around half of the field to come from the WSG. 

No wonder then that surfers are looking to use their heritage to surf for different countries as a means to join the five-ringed circus. Igarashi choosing Japan over the States and Tatiana Weston-Webb opting for Brazil were the high profile moves. Elsewhere West Oz veteran Claire Beviliqua is currently surfing for Italy, Hawaiian Big Wave Tour Champion Paige Alms for Canada and Kiwi Jay Quinn is now a Pommie. 

All are in Japan proclaiming their allegiance with a view to eyeing off the big prize in 2020. The ISA Games now matter and will matter a whole lot more in the next few years. And there doesn’t seem to be a kneeboarder in sight. The question is; do you care?