Growing pains as sport evolves

Published on November 30th, 2019

As Sailing is limited to ten events in the Olympic Games, the debate is how these events can best serve the sport. They each offer an opportunity to promote sailing and provide a mountain to climb, and with significant diversity within the sport, picking ten pathways is not easy.

The growth of kiteboarding had been celebrated within sailing, but when this segment threatened to take one of the Olympic events, suddenly the “this is not sailing” crowd filled the internet with their remarks. Well, the progressives won the battle, with Paris 2024 Olympics to now include kiteboarding.

But within this debate was which sporting federation should govern kiteboarding. Opponents said it was more surf than sail, so it should be governed by the International Surfing Association (ISA) and not World Sailing, despite the ISA not laying claim to it and how kite course racing was already using the Racing Rules of Sailing.

International sporting organizations are funded by activity, so increasing segments is good business. World Sailing was accused of taking an Olympic event away from “sailors” to fill their pockets, but this power struggle is not unique to sailing as sporting activities evolve.

The ISA is now involved in a tussle that they welcome, and it has the grandson of Windsurfer founders Hoyle and Diane Schweitzer lending his voice to the dispute.

Zane Schweitzer

Zane Schweitzer has thrown his weight behind the ISA as the dispute over the ownership of the standup paddle discipline with the International Canoe Federation (ICF) rumbles on.

“The ISA has been the roots and foundation of our surf sports and SUP has been a branch of that,” said the 26-year-old at the ISA World StandUp Paddle (SUP) and Paddleboard Championship, a title he won in 2016.

“All the pioneers of SUP came from somewhat of a surf background and we have had this foundation set with the ISA for so many years. We have had some amazing competitions and it has given us a platform to compete on a world-class level and for World Championships.”

However, the International Canoe Federation (ICF) also sees stand up paddling as one of their disciplines, hosting the ICF Stand Up Paddling World Championships. A two-day hearing into the ISA and ICF dispute was held by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in October to determine the future.

Given how both federations are also Olympic sports, this might become a “careful what you ask for” scenario if SUP proponents push to take an Olympic event that other disciplines desire. Just ask World Sailing how much fun that was…

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