Monthly Archives: November 2015

Surfing included in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

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It’s official: the sport of surfing has been proposed to take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Japan. There will be two events for 20 male surfers and 20 female surfers.

The historic decision was announced by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee this 28th September 2015. Surfing – alongside skateboarding, karate, sports climbing, and baseball/softball – has been proposed by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee to enter the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) should confirm the new sports at the 129th IOC Session, in Rio, in August 2016.

It’s been a long discussion – should surfing be included in the Olympic movement? The so-called purists of the sport have often showed antipathy towards the idea; the progressivists embraced and supported it.

However, the biggest winner here is clearly Fernando Aguerre. The president of the International Surfing Association (ISA) has been fighting for the inclusion of surfing in the Olympic Games for more than a decade. His arguments are valid and understandable.

“Surfing is truly a global sport, more popular and more widely practiced than many current Olympic sports. Surfing is pursued in every corner of the world, in more than a hundred countries. There are now over 35 million surfers worldwide!” wrote Aguerre.

“Surfers are a strong and positive influence on young people around the world. They are a very relevant part of our youth culture and serve as inspirational figures, naturally representing Olympic values.”

Aguerre has always supported wave-making technologies as a natural path towards the Olympic Games. The ISA boss believes that surf pools will “provide opportunities for the integration of diverse socioeconomic, ethnic, religious, and age groups long after the Games have moved on.”

The president of the governing body for the sport of surfing has a final word for the purists. “I don’t believe that the soul of surfing requires it to be an elite sport for the lucky few who live near the ocean’s waves.”

It was a long road. The treacherous adventure into the Olympic movement started in 1992 when former ISA leader Jacques Hele started lobbying for surfing in the international sports event.

In the last 20 years, surfers lost five Olympic bids – Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London, and Brazil – and many questioned the sport’s ability to influence the IOC. However, surfing is writing a new page in its rich history book. Hopefully, the critics will join the party.

Aguerre is surely not alone in the celebrations. Kelly Slater, Gerry Lopez, Mick Fanning, Hank Gaskell, Taylor Knox, Gabriel Medina were some of the names who have backed the dream. And the dream is now reality. Surfing is one step closer of joining windsurfing in the Olympics.

Discover the most important dates in the history of surfing, and take a look at some key personalities who shaped the sport of riding waves through time.

 

 

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The Chronology of Surfing in the Olympic Games

September 2015: The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee proposed surfing in Olympic Games.
July 2011: Surfing is not included in the 2020 Olympic Games. Only a board sport – wakeboard – is listed.
October 2009: ISA President Fernando Aguerre officially participates in the Olympic Congress.
October 2008: Surfing is included in the first annual, OAC-sanctioned Asian Beach Games, in Bali, Indonesia.
August 2008: ISA President publishes “Surfing in the Olympics,” a key piece in the ISA’s path towards the Olympic Games.
June 2008: ISA President attends SportAccord, where he makes the case for inclusion of Surfing in the Cultural, Education and/or Cultural Programs of the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games, and 2012 London Olympic Games.
December 2003: ISA signs the contract with WADA, conforming to the IOC’s Anti-Doping Charter.
November 2003: ISA submits a re-evaluation document for the IOC records.
December 2002: Surfing was officially put on the South Pacific Games Program.
August 2002: ISA receives a letter saying that surfing will not be considered for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 because it has not yet fulfilled the requirement of having 75 national governing bodies.
November 1997: IOC requests two ISA flags, one for the IOC Headquarters and one for the IOC Museum.
September 1997: IOC grants “outright recognition” to the ISA as a “Recognized Federation.”
January 1997: ISA produces a promotional video about the 1996 World Surfing Games and sends a copy of it to all IOC Members.
October 1996: ISA holds its World Surfing Games 1996, in Huntington Beach, California. It was the world’s largest surfing contest, featuring almost 600 competitors from 36 nations.
August 1996: The Olympic “Questionnaire for Admission” is completed and sent back to the IOC.
June 1996: IOC President Samaranch, at the conclusion of his June meeting with ISA Chairman Aguerre, unexpectedly announced the creation of a special “IOC President’s Trophy” to be given to the team winner at the ISA World Surfing Games.
May 1996: Mr. Joao Havelange, President of FIFA (Federation Internationale Football Association), the world’s largest sporting federation, becomes an ambassador for surfing.
September 1995: ISA decides to make a special donation to the IOC museum in honor of becoming a recognized federation.
June 1995: The IOC’s Annual Congress ratifies the Executive Committee’s decision, officially recognizing the ISA as the International Federation for surfing and bodyboarding, thus formally welcoming the sports to the Olympic movement.
April 1995: IOC Executive Committee grants provisional recognition to the International Surfing Association (ISA).
March 1995: Aguerre rallies support of the US surf industry and brings the ISA World Surfing Games to Huntington Beach, USA.
August 1994: ISA files application for recognition by the IOC.
May 1994: Fernando Aguerre is elected Chairman of the ISA, and includes Olympic surfing as part of the ISA’s plan for the inclusion in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
April 1994: Lobbying continues for surfing to become an Olympic sport. Jacques Hele attends several international sports meetings.
November 1992: International Surfing Association (ISA) President Jacques Hele lobbies for surfing in the Olympic movement.

 

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Wasfia becomes first Bangladeshi to scale seven summits

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No mountain is high enough for Wasfia Nazreen, who became the first Bangladeshi to climb all seven highest peaks in seven continents, also known as the “Seven Summits”.

The National Geographic adventurer reached the summit of Carstensz Pyramid, the highest mountain of Oceania/Australasia, completing the challenge of scaling seven highest mountains around the world.

With this, the 33-year-old mountaineer and a rights activist completed her campaign named “Bangladesh on Seven Summits”.

Wasfia reached the top at 10:19am local time on November 18. She was accompanied by Indonesian adventurer Joshua Noya, according to the Bangladesh on Seven Summit Foundation. She and her friends had formed the foundation four years ago.

Sharing her experience with the BBC Bangla service last night, Wasfia, who is now in Indonesia, said, “Believe it or not, Carstensz Pyramid was the toughest and remotest mountain I have ever climbed in my life. It was tougher than Everest and Denali. Because it’s a technical mountain.”

She said she cried like a child on the night of her summit. “I just wanted to be alive,” Wasfia said.

Since not so many people had climbed the granite mountain, she said, she had to do everything on her own and even make her own way to climb. “I was terrified in every moment.”

Wasfia said when she reached the summit, she was emotional. “At least I have kept the promise I made to my country four years ago when Bangladesh turned 40,” she told BBC Bangla.

The Seven Summits present different challenges that have to be overcome with extreme and testing fortitude. Summiting all of them is regarded as one of the world’s biggest mountaineering challenges.

The Seven Summits is a dream for many climbers, but only a few have succeeded. Wasfia now proudly belongs to the group.

Carstensz, locally known as Puncak Jaya in Indonesia’s Papua province, entails the “most consistently steep and technical climbing of all the seven summits”, according to a Facebook post of Korvi Rakshand, spokesperson for the foundation. It is 4,884-metre high.

This is also the first time any Bangladeshi climbed this mountain, Korvi Rakshand told The Daily Star yesterday.

Wasfia dedicated the completion of the four-year-long journey to the “Spirit of ’71 and all those who are fighting to protect it”, he said.

“We started the campaign to celebrate Bangladesh’s 40th anniversary of independence. It’s an effort to fulfil the spirit of ’71,” Korvi said, quoting Wasfia. She thanked everyone who supported her during the campaign.

He said Wasifa informed them of her feat through satellite phone.

Wasfia is the second Bangladeshi woman to conquer the Mount Everest. She set foot atop the world’s highest peak on May 26, 2012.

In 2011, Wasfia, also a writer, took up the challenge to climb the highest mountain in each of the seven continents in celebration of Bangladesh’s 40 years of independence and women empowerment.

She climbed Mount Elbrus in Europe, Mount Aconcagua in South America, Mount Denali in North America, Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, and Mount Everest in Asia.

She was named an Adventurer of the Year 2014-15 by the National Geographic.

The Washington-based magazine, also known as Nat Geo, nominated her as one of the recipients of the honour in the activist category for her commitment to empowering women and girls in Bangladesh. Every year it nominates 10 achievers from different fields for the annual award.

 

Sherpas Get Their Say in New Everest Documentary

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With all the media attention lavished on Western mountaineers and guides who fly to Nepal with their eyes on Everest, it can be easy to forget that Sherpas comprise the backbone of commercial expeditions on the mountain. But until recently, few outside the industry have glimpsed the complicated relationship between foreign climbers and Sherpas in the Nepalese Himalaya.

There was the 2013 brawl between Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck’s climbing team and a group of Sherpas at Camp II. The next year, in 2014, an avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall killed 16 Sherpas and, notably, no foreigners. Both high-profile incidents brought the Westerner–local dynamic to the fore and turned an unprecedented spotlight on the Sherpas.

Australian filmmaker Jennifer Peedom, with a crew that included two Sherpa cameramen and Camp 4 Collective’s Renan Ozturk, was there to capture the entire 2014 season. By embedding with an expedition led by Russell Brice, one of the most important guides on Everest, the filmmakers witnessed—and chronicled—the commercial-spiritual tug-of-war during one of the mountain’s most tragic, heated, and pivotal years.

The resulting documentary, Sherpa, which is touring U.S. film festivals now, tells the story against a sweeping historical background and with poignant commentary from Sherpas themselves, including Tenzing Norgay’s children, and others in the mountaineering community who understand the complex factors at hand.

We spoke to the 40-year-old Peedom—who climbed 26,906-foot Cho Oyu in 2005 and has been to Camp 4 on Everest while filming—about the 2014 disaster, why the Sherpas trusted her, and how things have changed for the high-altitude workers. (For more background, check out Grayson Schaffer’s 2013 feature, ”

(For more background, check out Grayson Schaffer’s 2013 feature, “The Disposable Man: A Western History of Sherpas on Everest.”)

OUTSIDE: What inspired you to tell the Sherpas’ story? 
PEEDOM: I’ve had it in the back of my mind, and when the fight broke out in 2013, I figured, now is as good a time as any. So we went for the 2014 expedition, and the disaster highlighted the risk that the Sherpas were taking in a way that nothing else could.

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What were the Sherpas’ reactions to your desire to make this film?
I went on two trips before shooting the film, one to talk with the Sherpas about the film—if they wanted it made and what that would mean, and the importance of giving us access. One of the things they and I really wanted was to have some Sherpa cameramen on our team. So we made a second trip to train two Sherpas how to use the cameras, and they ended up shooting some of the most important material in the film. We also had a Sherpa translator who I worked with really closely, because we wanted to do all the interviews in Nepali.

How did those kinds of efforts affect your access? 
After the avalanche, when the protesting was going on, I noticed that word spread very fast that we were the ones making the Sherpa film, and I would have Sherpas pushing people out of the way and trying to make space for me in front of these big crowds to get proper footage—and passing batteries and holding things for me. I felt lucky, and I felt like they wanted their story told.

How do you think Russell Brice views his relationship with the Sherpas? It’s complicated, right?
It’s really complicated. Russell doesn’t have children, and for many years of his life he’s spent half his time in Nepal. He has a huge affection for the Sherpas. His immediate Sherpa team is very loyal to him, but I think he sees his responsibility to them as an economic one, and what happened on the mountain last year [the Sherpas’ deciding not to climb after the 2014 avalanche] was a spiritual decision. Russell does a lot for the Sherpas. But I think he’s in a difficult position because so much is changing. The politics in Nepal are changing, and it’s a difficult place to run a business.

 

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At the crux of the film, when Brice was deciding whether to cancel his expedition after the avalanche, he told his clients that rival Sherpas had threatened to break the legs of his own Sherpas if they climbed. But you also show an interview with Phurba Tashi, Brice’s lead Sherpa, where Phurba says no one has threatened him and he hasn’t heard of anything like that in Base Camp. What does that say about the pressure Brice was feeling?
I was shocked in that meeting, I have to say. I was running around Base Camp, and I knew the threats were rumors. It’s hard to know if Russell really believed the rumors or not. I think Russell didn’t want to take that risk for his Sherpas. But what our story shows is that our Sherpa team themselves didn’t want to climb. I think they have a tremendous loyalty to Russell and they were scared to tell him that. So there was a little passing of the buck, because it was a difficult thing for expedition leaders to cancel the expedition.

The Sherpas have been working for Western outfitters for more than 60 years, but when this tragedy happened, they blamed their government for their working conditions rather than their employers. Was their anger misplaced? 
I don’t think it’s misplaced, but some employers are better than others—Russell is a good one. The industry is so unregulated that there are cowboy operators—many of which are local Nepali operators.* I think some of them need to look at how big the loads are that their Sherpas are carrying. But it’s a broader responsibility, too. Foreign climbers need to ask the difficult questions of their operators to make sure they’re doing the right thing. Because they are asking Sherpas to take many risks on their behalf, and I think they pay the money then don’t really want to know about that, because it’s uncomfortable.

Do you think anything has changed or will change on the mountain?
I think it has. The Sherpas improved the conditions for all. They increased insurance, victims’ compensation increased twelve fold, wages increased, I think they’re putting better limitations on the size of their loads. I think people know they can’t take the Sherpas for granted anymore.

 

The Thirst Is Real: Island Hopping In The Indian Ocean

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There are two huge commodities on the small island of Malé, smack-dab in the middle of the archipelago of the Maldives. Space and water. The island is inhabited by about 105,000 people and sits at roughly 2.2 square miles. Nestled deep within the Indian Ocean, it’s isolated, it’s hot, and it’s crowded. As we hopped into the back of a taxi truck and cruised the crowded streets, Hambe, one of the local skaters, told me that the water desalination plant had caught fire, so there isn’t anyway to create fresh water on the island. People are in a bit of a panic as bottled water becomes increasingly harder to get. It was two days into a 14-day trip and we all were hot and sweaty from skating all day. Luckily, a big rainstorm hit that night, so we all grabbed soap from the hotel and joined the rest of the city bathing in the rain. It became clear life on Malé is an ebb and flow of half living and half surviving.
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The whole trip had started about a few years back when I did some reading on the Maldives. A magically beautiful chain of islands south of India, known mostly for its lavish resorts and crystal-clear waters. I came across a Facebook page for the Raalhugandu Skatepark DIY—an impressively built DIY bowl located right along an artificial beach overlooking the Indian Ocean. After a few messages back and forth with locals Hambe and Ammu, I was pretty set on going, so I hit up international playboy Patrik Wallner to ask if he’d be down to roll the dice and see if we could find anything.

Convincing people and sponsors was surprisingly easy, considering there was only a street gap and a DIY park to show. I think just the idea of going to the Maldives was more than enough to get everyone on board, and flights were much cheaper than I’d imagined. Patrik had been to Sri Lanka before, so we figured maybe just in case we would do a week in Malé, a week in Sri Lanka, and just a short bit later Jordan Trahan, Nick Boserio, Nick Garcia, Bristol England’s Korahn Gayle, Patrik Wallner, and I were all on a very long but worthwhile journey to the middle of the Indian Ocean.

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Flying into Malé was insane; we took a really early flight from Dubai, and we pulled up right as the sun was rising, and I have never seen water so blue in my entire life. Gorgeous island after island spackled the water as it looked like we were flying over a postcard you’d pick up at the airport. Hambe, Ammu, Thu Thu, and a big crew welcomed us at the airport, and we took a ferry over to Malé. The density of the place can instantly be felt—there are a lot of people, and there is not a lot of room to move. Maldivians are incredibly nice though, welcoming, hospitable, and they have adapted to their space issues quite well. In no time we were at the bowl, shredding it up and checking out the streets.

Around the second day Hambe told me that there was a fire at the water plant. Malé is so densely populated, little things like growing food or even storing and cleaning water are quite difficult. So in what’s called a desalinization plant, water from the ocean is passed through a very fine net, which then filters the salt out of the water, making it consumable. Well, that plant caught fire, meaning there was a shortage of water, meaning no showers, and thankfully for countries sending over extra water, they were able to stay hydrated while repairing the generator. A week of amazing spots, the most beautiful water I have ever seen and some memories I will never forget, we headed off to Sri Lanka to see what that island had to offer.

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Seeing as alcohol isn’t legal in the Maldives, pretty much the first thing we did landing in Colombo was get some beers. I’d heard from a few people that there wasn’t much to skate in Colombo, so the plan was to hop a train up north to Jaffna, which had just been recently opened to tourists after years of being occupied by the Tamil Tigers. Only issue since it was so close to Christmas, the trains booked up and we didn’t have a way up north. So we decided to stick around Colombo and bear the heat and see what we could find to skate, then head to Jaffna.

A bumpy, long, seven-hour drive led us to the magical city of Jaffna. Part of the Northern Province, Jaffna had been in a civil war with the south of Sri Lanka, and the evidence of war could be seen all over. Buildings riddled with bullet holes, a bombed water tower. The people of Jaffna, however, were some of the nicest people I have met. I’m not entirely sure if skateboarders have ever come to the town, as people looked upon us with bewilderment and excitement. Everyone seemed to be genuinely impressed with the skateboarding, whether it was trying it out or seeing someone do a trick.

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Jaffna is a developing city, and having spent years in war, a lot of the infrastructure isn’t as developed as other cities. Lots of roads weren’t paved and sidewalks weren’t in the best of shape for skateboarding, so the spots there were few and far between.

Two weeks and two islands down, the final sunset in Jaffna and everyone was exhausted. We drove back to Colombo and then waited at the airport for our sad good-byes and our long journeys home. It was an epic adventure and a good lesson to not limit yourselves on your skateboard. Get out there, push around and explore because the earth is big, and every little nook of it has got to have something for us to skate.

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