The article below was brought to my attention by Inkawaves Terry but was written by Swellnet
Last Friday the International Surfing Association (ISA) wound up its week long competition in Punta Hermosa, Peru. The ISA Games are a teams event where surfers compete for their country rather than compete as individuals. The surfers collect points for placing and the nation with the most points becomes the ISA champion.
Last week it was the host nation, Peru, that collected enough points to call themselves ISA champions. It was a proud moment for the host nation but unfortunately the moment was tarnished by a serious riot following the mens semi-final.
Australia had two competitors in the semi, Mick Campbell and Drew Courtney, and if both got through to the final Australia would've accrued enough points to be crowned champion. Peru had one surfer in the semi and not long after the heat began it was clear he was operating under orders to take Drew Courtney out of the competition. The Peruvian didn't catch a wave the entire heat, instead focussing on blocking Courtney from riding waves.
Toward the end of the heat Courtney caught a wave and the Peruvian had an interference called against him. According to Courtney "a bit of push and shove happened and a few words were said out in the water".
When he got to the waters edge the fervently patriotic crowd thought the Peruvian surfer had been slighted and they confronted Courtney. Another Australian competitor, who watched the incident from the roof of a nearby house, said a 100-strong crowd of locals surrounded the Australian. With no security to quell the situation it quickly became violent.
The first thing to hit Courtney was a bottle. He was then punched in the head a number of times by individuals who fled back into the crowd. When rocks started to be thrown Courtney had to use his board as protection.
The Australian team physio rushed to the surfers aide and he was also hit by a large rock in the shoulder. Team coach, 1988 world champion Barton Lynch, stepped in and tried to calm the crowd but had to retreat when they turned on him too.
By now the crowd had grown to 500 and Courtney made his escape by running along the rocky shoreline and through a hole in the scaffolding of the competitors area. The local police force arrived with sirens on yet no officers got out of the car. ISA security, clearly outnumbered, also did nothing.
The Australiam team house was situated just ten metres from the competitors scaffolding but to get there would've meant Courtney leaving the safety of the competitors area and running the gauntlet of the angry mob. He stayed in the competitors area. Much of the anger was then directed at the Australian house and for fifteen minutes the crowd surged with more violence likely.
Tensions began to ease however, and surfers from the Peruvian team made their way into the Australian house offering apologies for their countrymen's behaviour. The Peruvian surfer that blocked Courtney in the semi-final was succesful in keeping him out of the final so Peru were crowned ISA champions.
According to sources the victory was hollow for the Peruvian surfers. Although that wouldn't have been obvious from reading the absurdly one-sided press release written once competition was completed. That press release, clearly written by someone involved in the Peruvian team, made no mention of the violent infraction although it did include this quote by ISA founder, Fernando Aguerre, "Today we present to the nations of the world a vision, a unified hope of surfing for a better world".
The ISA Games offer gestures of international unity such as the 'sharing of the sands'. As an organisation it has much to offer, yet the riot - the way it was handled, and the way it has been covered up - leaves a serious black mark against them.
Of great concern, especially for the Australian team, is that the ISA junior world championships are due to be held in Punta Hermosa, Peru, early in 2011. Following the riot coaches from France, Tahiti, Great Britain and South Africa expressed their concern about sending their junior national team to Peru.
In response to the riot, Surfing Australia CEO, Andrew Stark, said he is "insisting that the ISA provide a safe and secure events for our teams to attend". Stark also said that they "will only send the Australian Junior team to Peru next year if we can guarantee that the necessary security measures are in place and we can be assured that the team will be safe".
As for Fernando Aguerre, he has made it his life's work to get surfing into the Olympics and the ISA is his vehicle for doing so. Friday's deplorable behaviour may prove to be a setback to his goal, yet how he responds will be a good gauge as to whether he is capable of achieving it