The Olympic decision – 19 statements
After a six-month-long battle, windsurfing has made it back as an Olympic event for the 2016 Olympics. The ISAF Annual General Meeting, in a simple majority vote, decided to delete Kiteboarding and re-instate Windsurfing RS:X, which has been in the Olympics since 1984 as a men’s event, and since 1992 for women.
What does the windsurfing industry and riders think about this decision? Do they care? What are the next steps?
We have asked event organizers, tour managers, different sailors, brand managers, etc. In total 19 people shared their thoughts with us and you. Read their opinions and ideas and a short history about the Olympic decision below.
Craig Gertenbach (Brand manager Fanatic)
“I think the issue is a bit more complicated than just kiting or windsurfing. Clearly these 2 sports both have a huge participation and appeal to both the younger generation and media alike. Especially compared to the other antiquated sailing classes, ISAF should have either pushed for extra medals for kiting or cancelled one of their classes to make way for kiting. Clearly they tried to keep their hold on their classic sailing classes and sacrificed windsurfing in May, which as we now know, is the class with the biggest youth programme, most women competitors, cheapest for emerging nations and widest spread of nations competing. So whilst I am happy that windsurfing is back at the Olympics where it rightly belongs, I believe our next challenge as the “wind-sports” industry, is a combined push of windsurfing/kiting, to get both sports into 2020, to expose the other sailing classes weaknesses and hidden agendas, but also by portraying the positive aspects of both of our sports.
Many kiters were windsurfers, many people do both sports, each has it´s own attraction. ISAF took the wrong route to divide the 2 and match them against each other. Now we clearly know the strengths and weaknesses of each sport on an Olympic level. Kiting has some work to do in establishing their youth programmes, equipment etc, to make it a fair system for emerging nations or lower budgets so the best sailor wins. I´m sure they will do so and be ready for the 2020 Olympics. Windsurfing/RS-X needs to make sure they position themselves strongly within ISAF to make any future discussion of windsurfing vs kiting invalid, rather pushing more towards more medals for sailing, or eliminating the less attractive classes.
Whilst RS-X is not practised by many people (there are many Olympic classes which represent a sport, but are not widely practised on the chosen equipment), it is still a fantastic opportunity for youngsters to gain experience in racing, via the Techno class etc, with a dream of the Olympics as the final goal. All the financial and logistical support supplied by the sailing associations and National Olympic committees, is invaluable. This is not to be under-estimated, just because you maybe personally prefer riding a 80L waveboard. Think of the future generation, not everyone lives close to the beach or has access to world class conditions. And perhaps the whole box rule opening that Kiting brought to the Olympic discussion might find a way into the windsurfing gear chosen for Olympics, if so, it could certainly open things up if implemented correctly, for a more fun equipment choice.”
Svein Rasmussen (CEO Starboard)
“We at Starboard are congratulating ISAF on making an intelligent decision on behalf of the whole sailing community. We congratulate Neil Pryde on a great political effort.
The most significant benefit as far as we understand that national funds will keep on flowing towards the development of our sport.
Maybe Windsurfing needed the wake up call which was given us back in May? The current equipment structure and race format is quite probably not quite what windsurfing wants and needs, demonstrated by windsurfing being kicked out. Unless we step it up with a more inviting alternative for 2020, windsurfing will be quite likely be gone for good ?
Starboard will do what it can to challenge the status quo and help ensure that windsurfing will remain in the 2020 games and beyond, but we acknowledge that we are not the best politicians. To create gear and formats that suit Olympic racing, spurs local, regional, national and international participation is however exciting.
As a participant in windsurfing’s first Olympics I feel a special connection to this most prestigious event of all and it feels great to be back in the Games.”
Martin Brandner (Brand manager JP Australia)
“I was actually always rather positive that this first decision would be changed as it simply did not make any sense. Kitesurfing is simply not ready yet to be a Olympic Racing discipline. To have a full fleet of kite racers launch out of a harbor sounds like a total nightmare to me. Or what do you do when the wind dies so that the kites fall out of the sky. The Windsurfers would be able to make it home by pumping but the kiters would need to be picked up from the water. I think Windsurfing has proven to be a great Olympic discipline for spectators and the athletes. So I think this decision was absolutely right. I hope that sometime in future both sports can be part of the Olympics.”
Marc-Olivier Leconte (Brand manager NeilPryde)
“The decision to bring back windsurfing came as a great relief. We always thought that the original decision was unfair to our sport and we are glad the Events Committee rose up to reverse it. We feel extremely happy for all the athletes and federations who trained so hard and invested so much into windsurfing.”
Remi Vila (Head of racing department Starboard)
“RS:X comes back to the Olympics for 2016 but it looks really like this story is not finished and the war between Kite & Windsurf will probably continue, which makes me very disappointed. Kitesurfing and Windsurfing are great sports. Why to make them against each other???
Anyway this is a VERY big alert for 2020, ISAF would like to have only one of this great sports.
Their are two options out of my view :
- The conservative one by propose a new Windsurfing set for 2020. We are working on it and you will see it soon.
- Totally different project, Olympic is far from what it was at the beginning and everything now is about media coverage (Sailing at the Olympic is a disaster). The only way I see to make the Windsurf explode in media score is with Indoor competition like it was in the past at Bercy. But way bigger like in a huge football stadium with a wave swimming pool with huge fans at 30 knots. Olympic is 1 Man 1 Women, fine but they should do 3 disciplines, Slalom, Freestyle & Wave to get their medals. This will refresh our sport a lot with young blood. To arrive to have this at the Olympic we need to start asap to show that it is working to be ready for the next selection in 2016 and I am pretty sure this is possible to bring back windsurfing as it is. FUN!”
Max jr. Blom (Mystic marketing director and kitesurfer)
“When I heard the decision was changed again into windsurfing i was not surprised. The ISAF made a decision last summer without analyzing the details. Kiteboarding is a young and very nice sport but needs to develop a bit more for the Olympic stage. The IKA did a very good job my making kite racing more professional and showing a huge growth but it would be good to
Keep on developing this side of the sport and be 100% ready for 2020.
Where I was surprised about is the fact the ISAF was able to change this. Once you made the decision you can not change this again in my opinion. People and federations made (big) investments relying on the fact the sport has become Olympic and now their dream or future plans are gone. To me the ISAF is a bunch of conservative and implausible people which are not in touch with the water sports. Why not adding wind and kite surfing and delete one of the sailing classes?!
By choosing kitesurfing in the first place they admit the sport is working good for the Olympics. Windsurfing was already in, so both sports passed the criteria.
Now you have a single handed sailing class (laser) for middle weight man and heavy weight (Finn) man?! The games are all about chasing the Olympic dream and with adding kitesurfing next to windsurfing you will. Open up the world for a very big group. It a shame that didn’t happen.
For windsurfing its a good thing because the sport needs every positive exposure and young athletes stepping in chasing their Olympic dream. The only thing which concerns me is the development of the class. Its essential to develop classes all the time and maybe the RSX needs a development.
Also reconsider the course because a tactical up and down might be not the way mainstream public. Keep it fast and furious for the public otherwise it will die out and loose attention of the crowd.
For Mystic it doesn’t matter which sport is chosen, we will support both sports anyway so my ideal was to get them in together!”
Rich Page (PWA tour manager):
“We are obviously pleased to see what we believe is a just and sensible decision to reinstate windsurfing. Although not publicly visible, we have had some involvement behind the scenes, through our very strong relationship to ISaF, to establish the key facts around the whole situation and allow for accurate decisions to be made, in the best interests of all parties. As well as the reinstatement of our sport in the Olympics, we also hope the situation will have created more active and dynamic attitude toward the Olympic discipline, which will allow for more progressive thinking and more progressive formats in the future.”
Arnon Dagan (Professional Windsurfer on the PWA Tour and Formula Racer):
“Windsurfing came back from the dead. From a dying sport we got a last chance to wake up and show the world our sport is great. The RSX class represented windsurfing in a horrible way. This heavy door is not conected to real windsurfing and it is destroying the image and greatness of our sport. Now is the time for windsurfing organizations around the world to finally come together and propos as one a cool early plaining board that will sail good and look great. We got lucky this time! Unite or fall forever in 4 years.”
Samantha Bittner (AWT tour manager)
“The Olympic decision was a total surprise. I wish both sports could be involved and I am sad to see so much struggling this year from both sides. I hope in the future there can be room for both windsurfing and kiteboarding in the Olympics. To prepare, it would be nice to promote events with both kiteboarding and windsurfing together!”
Dorian van Rijsselberghe (2012 Olympic Gold medalist)
“Another 4 years!!! Windsurfing back in and kite surfing is out again….. Strange mixed feelings but stoked to roll.”
Ben Proffitt (PWA live stream commentator, wave sailor)
“Well first of all I can safely say i’m really happy that windsurfing is back in. I think it deserves to be in and the way it was taken out was not right! In fact it stunk…
Kite racing maybe should be in the Olympics but not at the expense of windsurfing. Although personally I feel it hasn’t proven its self properly yet and with 4 more years it will be more established and the finished product. Rules/equipment/ needs to be proven and tested with lots of competitors and different venues etc etc . I think its still early days with Kite racing so the equipment changes so much. A box rule will just be down to who has developed the best gear and that really isn’t what the olympics is about surely?
I think one design is really the only fair way. Unless the sport has been established for a while and designs have peaked. (Just look at the top 10 in the PWA slalom.. sails and boards from every different manufacturer.)
Maybe we could have a box rule in Windsurfing? Maybe? Would it make it better? I’m not sure.. RSX was designed for a purpose, which it does. 3knots to 35knots and when you look at the racing in the olympics it was by far the most exciting to watch! Well I really enjoyed it anyway. In fact I had a shock as it looked really good.
The one thing which will be interesting is how many RSX sailors wanted it back in and how many would have liked the challenge of the kite racing. As I can imagine learning to kite like any new sport was quite good fun. I’m sure there are mixed feeling as a few were doing pretty good at it. (haha.. I think that says something in its self!! ..what Olympic sport can you be competitive at after only a few months!)
If you look at the facts.. which there are a lot of them.. Windsurfing should not have been dropped.. no way. But I think its given windsurfing a big kick up the ass which can only be a good thing.
(Disclaimer * Its a very big topic with loads of different angles and sides… and far too many to go into here. So these are just a few of my thoughts! Some probably aren’t explained as fully as they need to be. So please take that into account when reading. Thanks ben).”
Antoine Albeau (Multiple Windsurfing World Champion, Speed record holder)
“Yes I found this really strange that they change their decision from 6 months ago !! At the end I think that the decision to change to kitesurfing was some misunderstanding so I think it was a total mistake to take out windsurfing and put kite instead, we are NOT in fight with kite, these are 2 differents sport and if they want to put kitesurfing at the Olympics they should put i, but not by taking another dicipline.
So, 6 months ago it was a really hard decision for us and now it is for the kiters. I don’t know really how the decision was, I am in Namibia, but this is really good for all the RS:X people without forgetting all the windsurfing school we have in France as they will continue to motivate all the young windsurfers to do a wondefull sport!!! See you on the wasser !!”
Björn Dunkerbeck (Multiple Windsurfing World Champion)
“First off all I really think this is the only right decision! Now we only need to get the open rules that OL Committee wanted to give Kite , FOR BOARDS AND SAILS ,,,, and this would make it more attractive for the future and also for a lot more windsurfers all in all!”
Kevin Pritchard (Multiple Windsurfing World Champion, Slalom and Wave)
“I think they did the right thing. Just imagine 120 kites all out on the water when the wind dies at a regatta. Could see it being a huge bummer. It’s great for the guys who work so hard to get in their that now they can keep going.”
Steven van Broeckhoven (Freestyle World Champion 2011)
“I am sure its good that windsurfing stays in the Olympics. I see a lot of young people doing BIC Tecno or RS-ONE and now they can continue their dreams. A few months ago I have done few races with the RS-ONE at the Jaguarneilpryde Racing Series in lake garda and I was suprized how hard it is, you have to give everything. I have respect for this discipline and it’s maybe not so exciting like wave, freestyle but still it’s a real sport much better then many sailing classes. Good thing is you can do it everywhere and everyone has the same chances.”
Iballa Moreno (Wave World Champion 2012)
“I´m surely happy to see Windsurfing as an olympic class, but they shouldn’t be thinking to take one out to put another class in!!”
Mikey Clancy (wave sailor from Ireland)
“I think it’s really great to see windsurfing back in the Olympics. The Irish windsurfing committee worked extremely hard to have the Irish vote overturned as part of the isa we as windsurfers were not consulted as members within the organisation!
I feel it’s up to us as windsurfers to be proactive about the situation, not to fight amongst each other and help our sport to grow, we are extremely lucky to have our sport included in the olympics and as you can see there are a lot of sports that would love to take our place!
Over the next few years a lot if work needs to be done to ensure that windsurfing takes the right steps in order to maintain and keep our voice on the boards and committees that have booted out windsurfing!”
Gerhard Polak (eventorganizer PWA Surf Worldcup Podersdorf, Austria)
“I did not understand, why the decision was between windsurfing and kitesurfing. Both classes should be Olympic instead of other boring sailing classes. So we are very happy, that windsurfing is part of the Olympic games.”
Patrik Pollak (Raceboard World Champion 2006, 4-times Olympic competitor, three world champion titles in different classes)
“I think the final decision is correct and it reflects the fact that windsurfing is an established sport with the youth pathway. I don’t think any of the sports (WS,KS) is more or less appealing to media.
In my opinion close racing is more important then the top speed or the latest super hi-tech equipment. Challenge is to make the courses which we race on, more understandable and more media friendly. Windsurfing got a good kick in the ass and hopefully can turn that momentum into changes which will make the olympic WS more accessible for riders (less expensive) and more attractive to young people and media.
Windsurfing was big recession maybe 10-5 years ago but then came TECHNO. Biggest windsurfing class in the world is a guarantee that course racing fleet will grow.
Many of the olympic athletes which were windsurfing could adjust to kiteracing thanks to their skill, budget options and fact they are high level athletes but it would be a disaster
for the youth, who does not have financial or logistical resources if kiteracing would stay olympic. The fact that windsurfing is olympic sport for 2016 is a great not only for the future at OG it is great news for windsurfing in general.
Positive outcome for kiteracing is that many people recognise it now and they have a chance to figure out the details like box vs. One design, safety, courses, formats etc. and come back stronger. We have seen many times in the past that fact that some sailing discipline got Olympic status, but meant the destruction of the class. (numbers dramaticly shrink because top athletes can spent a lot of money and time and suddenly avarage olympic Joe gets overlaped even if he gives everything, but does not have the money budget for coaches, physios, equipment tuning etc. Fun disappears, so does the fleet.
It is maybe time for board sports to think about some kind of “beach games” event or events circuit, where all aspects of boardsailing can be presented. WS.KS,SUP,Surfing.
Some great event for spectators and media which can create more awareness about the sport.”
THE OLYMPIC DECISION HISTORY explained by NeilPryde
In May the ISAF Mid Year Meeting of the ISAF Council, in Stresa Italy, took many by surprise when it installed Kiteboarding as an Olympic Event, doing so against the recommendation (17 votes to 2) of the Events Committee.
The same recommendation was again put forward to the ISAF Council Meeting at its Annual Conference, in Dun Laoghire, Ireland, but that would have required a 75% majority to re-open the decision of the council from the May meeting in respect of the events for the 2016 Olympics. The move to re-open failed by just two votes to reach the required threshold, but got support from 26 of the 38 voting delegates, at the council meeting on Thursday.
From there it was likely that if the council vote was repeated at the annual general meeting (held only once every four years), it was obvious that the windsurfers had done their homework and would carry the day – provided politics did not come into play and delegates at the AGM (where each country physically present is allowed a single vote, instead of just the the regions in the council meeting) had stayed true to the voting direction from the Council meeting – which was that although 75% were not in favour of re-visiting, there clear majority were for a re-instatement of Windsurfing.
Given that scenario, the fate of kiteboarding in a simple vote was inevitable, and the rogue decision of the ISAF council at its mid-year meeting was finally overturned by a vote of 51 to 40 in favour of the windsurfer. There were 104 countries represented at the AGM (with a big fly-in representation for nearby Europe) with a large number of abstentions (believed to be 13) on the 2016 Olympics vote.
The technical process in the voting was that ISAF Regulation 23.1.4 (which covers the Olympic classes for the next Olympics) was amended and approved to include windsurfing
The equipment approved for the 2016 Olympics Sailing Competition is as follows:
Men’s Board – RS:X
Women’s Board – RS:X
Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
Women’s One Person Dinghy Laser Radial
Men’s second One Person Dinghy – Finn
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFX
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Mixed Two Person Multihull – Nacra 17