In news you probably did not think you would read today, Iran has officially become the 100th member of the International Surfing Association. Yes, you read that right. Iran, a country known for many things other than surfing, will now join countries like the USA, Brazil, South Africa and Australia to become part of an organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee.
And if you are wondering how this whole relationship came about, look no further than Irish surfer Easkey Britton who 6 years ago inspired a local movement which has slowly been gathering moment in the country ever since. In 2010 Easkey decided to try surfing along the Baluchestan coast, a place where many locals now surf, including women who wear the Hijab while cutting some waves!
In 2013 Easkey returned to Iran and founded the website Waves of Freedom to encourage more Iranian women to get into surfing. That trip became the focus of a documentary called ‘Into The Sea’. Alongside Easkey were two Iranian athletes, snowboarder Mona Seraji and swimmer Shahla Yasini, who teamed up to use the sport of surfing as a means to break down cultural barriers to equality.
Although women participating in sports is more common in the capital city of Tehran, in more rural conservative areas it is not, and sporting activities have become a powerful way to empower women to engage in the community.
Today, the International Surfing Association recognizes that Iran is a country of great opportunity in the world of surfing and expressed how excited they are to have them as their 100th member.
This decision is rich in symbolism for us, both in terms of the milestone of recognizing the ISA’s 100th member, but also in showing surfing’s ability to help bring unity through sport,” ISA president Fernando Aguerre said in a statement on the ISA website.
When he became president there were only 32 member countries, and today they have reached not only a numerical milestone, but a point where they are able to welcome countries that aren’t typically thought of when it comes to surfing destinations – Haiti, Bangladesh, and Sierra Leone, which have very little surfing infrastructure, but that will change as the sport grows in those regions.
According to the newly-appointed Iran Surfing Association President, the country has 120km of shoreline for Surfing and lots of lakes and rivers for paddle boarding.
“We are very proud that the Iran Surfing Association has been granted ISA membership and we are now looking forward to working hard to develop and grow Surfing across the country…Surfing is not just a sport for the people of Iran, but a tool capable of uniting people of different cultures and backgrounds that highlights the values of hospitality, truthfulness and loyalty that define Iranian culture,” said Alireza Rostami.
And of course, acknowledging the huge part she played in bringing surfing to Iran, Easkey Britton remarked on the momentous occasion, while also mentioning surfers Mona Seraji, Shahla Yasini and Shams Fuladi who helped make this a possibility. Her perspective on Iran joining the ISA goes beyond just a sporting achievement or milestone.
“Witnessing the birth and rapid emergence of Surfing in Iran has shown me how the sport can be a unique lens to facilitate a deeper understanding of the world around us and each other. Ultimately, it can be developed to create a space and opportunity for connection across cultures and a positive relationship with the marine environment. A grass-roots surf community has now grown into a nationally recognized sport with the establishment of the Iran Surfing Association and ISA membership highlights the power of Surfing to connect communities across borders,” she said.
ISA President Fernando Aguerre is eager to see surfing become an Olympic sport, and according to Yahoo News, it is poised to become an Olympic sport for the Japan 2020 Games with the IOC set to ratify its inclusion in Rio de Janeiro in August.
While we can’t wait to see what the future of international surfing looks like with countries like Iran involved, you can watch Easkey Britton surfing in Iran in the video below which was filmed during one of her Waves For Freedom trips a few years ago: