Qualification Process for Surfing Competition at Tokyo 2020

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) released to all the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) the approved qualification system for Surfing’s Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.

This system promotes universal opportunities for surfers from around the world to qualify for the Games while at the same time ensuring the participation of the world’s best professional surfers.

To view the complete Olympic Qualification System for Surfing in Tokyo 2020, click here.

The key elements of the qualification system are as follows:


  • 20 men, 20 women.
  • Maximum of 2 surfers per gender per National Olympic Committee (NOC).
  • Qualification spots will be earned on an individual basis, by name.
  • In accordance with IOC guidelines, the qualification events have been determined in hierarchical order of qualification, as further explained below; If two surfers of a gender have qualified through the first hierarchical order, that NOC will not be able to qualify more surfers of that gender through qualifying events lower in hierarchical order.
  • All surfers selected by their respective National Federations for their national teams must participate in 2019 and 2020 ISA World Surfing Games in order to be eligible for Olympic qualification.  The final details of the eligibility requirements are still under review by the ISA and the IOC.

The hierarchical order of qualification will be as fallows:

  1. 2019 World Surf League Championship Tour: First 10 eligible men and first 8 eligible women.
  2. 2020 ISA World Surfing Games: First 4 eligible men and first 6 eligible women.
  3. 2019 ISA World Surfing Games: 4 men and 4 women selected based on their continent. Top finishing eligible surfer of each gender from Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania.
  4. 2019 Pan American Games: First eligible man and first eligible women in the surfing competitions.
  5. Host nation slot: One man and one woman slot will be guaranteed for the host nation of Japan, unless already filled through the above hierarchies. Should athletes from Japan qualify regularly, their slots will be reallocated to the highest ranked eligible surfers from the 2020 World Surfing Games.

The ISA has furthermore reached an important preliminary agreement with the World Surf League (WSL) to ensure the participation of their top stars, both in the Olympic Games and ISA World Surfing Games.

As this Qualification System will have a wide-ranging impact here are some additional important elements to note:

Country Representation for Athletes without an NOC

For events serving as official Qualifying Events for the Olympic Games, and in accordance with the Olympic Charter, surfers may only represent an ISA Member from territories with representation of a National Olympic Committee (NOC). ISA Members without NOC representation (Channel Islands, England, Hawaii, Scotland, Tahiti, Wales) will not be allowed to participate in Qualifying Events.

The surfers who have once competed for Member Federations without NOC representation will therefore be subject to selection for the National Team with NOC recognition of their territory (Channel Islands, England, Scotland, Wales: Great Britain; Tahiti: France; Hawaii: USA)

Proof of Nationality – Change of Nation

A competitor may only represent a country if he/she holds a passport or national identification card issued by the national government of that country. A national identification card must clearly show nationality or citizenship of the country. Once a competitor has represented one country in any Olympic Games, ISA World Championship, ISA-recognized continental championship, or ISA-sanctioned event (ISA Event), he/she generally may not surf for another country at future ISA Events.

Special exemptions may be considered by the ISA Executive Committee provided the petitioning National Federation submit a formal Change of Nation Request to the ISA.

Athlete Eligibility

In particular, and in agreement with the IOC, the ISA has determined that in order to be eligible to participate in the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020, all athletes must:

  • be in good standing with his/her National Federation (“NF”) and the ISA in accordance with the ISA Rule Book in force at the time of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
  • have fulfilled the minimum participation requirements in the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships (where applicable) and the 2019 and 2020 ISA World Surfing Games.

On this latter point, the exact details of these eligibility criteria are still under review by the IOC and ISA Executive Commitee and will be released in May 2018.

This is another historic moment for the sport of surfing and the inclusion in the Olympic Games. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us!

Aloha from the Alps – Since 1992

1 Comment

  1. Luis Banto

    20 competitors per gender and 2 per country seems to be very limiting, specially when you have a 2018 ISA World Championship with 44 countries attending and over 340 competitors.
    This system will pretty much create an Olympic arena with only ten countries participating. If the Olympics cannot have more then 20 competitors I would rather see 1 competitor
    per country and gender that way you will have more countries at the games.


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