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El Salvador Selected to Host Historic Edition of 2020 ISA World Surfing Games

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Last Olympic Qualifier to take place May 9-17 at Surf City El Salvador

The International Surfing Association (ISA) is pleased to announce that El Salvador has been chosen as host of the 2020 ISA World Surfing Games, to take place May 9-17. 

Twelve Olympic Qualifiers (seven women and five men) will be determined, making 2020 a historic edition of the event.

Swell lines wrap around the point of El Sunzal, also breaking on the reef of La Bocana, seen further down the coast. Photo: ISA / Ben Reed

Swell lines wrap around the point of El Sunzal, also breaking on the reef of La Bocana, seen further down the coast. Photo: ISA / Ben Reed

The twelve surfers to qualify for Tokyo 2020 in El Salvador will round out the grand total of 20 men and 20 women to compete in Surfing’s Olympic debut, joining athletes that qualified through the 2019 World Surf League Championship Tour (WSL CT), 2019 ISA World Surfing Games, and Lima 2019 Pan American Games.

The competition, which utilizes a dual podium format, will take place across two waves – El Sunzal and La Bocana. 

Both world-class surf spots recently were used to successfully host international championships, with the Surf City El Salvador ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship taking to the righthand, cobblestone point break of El Sunzal and the ALAS Latin Pro running at La Bocana, less than a kilometer to the east.

Hosting the ISA World Surfing Games is the next step in El Salvador’s five-year “Surf City” strategy to promote the tourism opportunities at the country’s beautiful beaches. 

The world’s best National Surfing Teams will be present in El Salvador. The top three ranking surfers from each nation on the 2019 WSL CT will be nominated to represent their nations, an invitation that must be accepted to remain eligible for Tokyo 2020 as per the ISA’s Olympic Eligibility Requirements. 

The 2019 edition of the ISA World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan reached unprecedented participation records. 240 athletes from a record-breaking 55 nations vied for the Gold Medals and Olympic Qualification slots. 

Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich earned the Women’s Gold Medal, while Italo Ferreira led Team Brazil to Gold with a gutsy, Gold Medal performance in the Men’s Division.

Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich claims victory at the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan. Photo: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich claims victory at the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan. Photo: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

The Tokyo 2020 slots, which were awarded on a continental basis, were provisionally earned by Shun Murakami (JPN), Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR), Billy Stairmand (NZL), and Frederico Morais (POR) for the men and Shino Matsuda (JPN), Anat Lelior (ISR), Bianca Buitendag (RSA), and Ella Williams (NZL) for the women.

ISA President Fernando Aguerre said: 

“We are very pleased to continue our strong relationship with President Nayib Bukele, Minister Morena Valdez and the government of El Salvador to bring another ISA World Championship to their beautiful country. The ISA World Surfing Games will bring an unprecedented level of global attention to the country and the nearly unlimited world-class resource that is its year-round waves.

Olympic dreams will be fulfilled, creating a highly anticipated level of world-class surfing, camaraderie, and excitement. The universality of our sport will be well on display with surfers from all continents gathering in peace to celebrate our sport’s Olympic spirit.

We look forward to building momentum towards Tokyo 2020, displaying the youthful, high-performance values of our sport that will contribute to the great success of the Games.” 

The President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele said:

“We are proud that our country will always be remembered and associated with the historic recognition of surf as an Olympic sport. 

We welcome surfers and tourists from around the world. This event will be the window to show our world-class waves and destination: Surf City El Salvador. Our country is open and ready to embrace new ideas, challenges and innovation. 

With Surf City El Salvador we are showing, with actions, that we have the political will to create a brand, a concept and a world-class destination.

This Olympic qualifying event is a milestone for Surf City El Salvador and we are certain it will contribute to the consolidation of our beautiful country as a premier destination for surfing. 

This is a historic championship for the sport. We are honored to host the world’s top surfers and show them all the good things we have to offer.” 

About the International Surfing Association:

The International Surfing Association (ISA), founded in 1964, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for Surfing. The ISA governs and defines Surfing as Shortboard, Longboard & Bodyboarding, StandUp Paddle (SUP) Racing and Surfing, Bodysurfing, Wakesurfing, and all other wave riding activities on any type of waves, and on flat water using wave riding equipment. The ISA crowned its first Men’s and Women’s World Champions in 1964. It crowned the first Big Wave World Champion in 1965; World Junior Champion in 1980; World Kneeboard Champions in 1982; World Longboard Surfing and World Bodyboard Champions in 1988; World Tandem Surfing Champions in 2006; World Masters Champions in 2007; and World StandUp Paddle (SUP, both surfing and racing) and Paddleboard Champions in 2012.

ISA membership includes the surfing National Federations of 108 countries on five continents. The ISA is presided over by Fernando Aguerre (ARG). The Executive Committee includes four Vice-Presidents Karín Sierralta (PER), Kirsty Coventry (ZIM), Casper Steinfath (DEN) and Barbara Kendall (NZL), Athletes’ Commission Chair Justine Dupont (FRA), Regular Members Atsushi Sakai (JPN) and Jean Luc Arassus (FRA) and ISA Executive Director Robert Fasulo as Ex-officio Member.

Its headquarters are located in La Jolla, California (USA).

For more information, please visit www.isasurf.org

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As Esports Take Off, High School Leagues Get In The Game . News

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Nowadays, if you’re a teenager who’s good at video games there’s a lot more to be had than just a pot of virtual gold.

There’s college scholarships, tournament money and high salary jobs.

Today, more than 170 colleges and universities participate. And there’s money on the table — more than $16 million in college scholarships. Naturally, high schools have followed suit.

This year, 17 states and the District of Columbia are offering formal esports teams.

Kids perfect their skills alongside teammates with the help of a high school coach. They run drills, develop strategy, review game footage and compete against other teams across their state.

But most high schools don’t house their esports teams under athletics. In Virginia, the league is considered an academic activity.

Scooter Norton is a senior and captain of Washington-Liberty’s Rocket League Team. He and his teammates Calvin Forinash and Matthew Goodwin have known one another since they were in kindergarten and have been playing Rocket League together for three years.

“When this opportunity came around, I don’t think there was any hesitation from us about whether we would do it. It was just a matter of whether our parents would let us,” Forinash says.

All three said their parents have at times resisted their desire to play video games.

“My dad really kind of struggles to accept that I want to have this as an extracurricular activity,” Goodwin says. “My mom has been pretty chill about it, but my dad still has a learning curve.”

Goodwin is a dedicated soccer player and will be playing on his college team next year. He says that when talking to his dad, he tries to explain how the two activities aren’t that different.

“We’re playing soccer with cars and it’s just on a screen,” Goodwin says. “There isn’t a big difference between the two except that one requires actual physical activity.”

In some cases, the decision of high schools to begin offering competitive esports leagues as a school sponsored extracurricular has been enough to change parents’ minds.

Scooter Norton’s mother, Cynthia Perera says that while she and her husband always supported their children’s athletics without question, esports were a source of conflict.

She pushed to limit Norton’s time spent playing — and still monitors it — which led to many fights.

But since the Virginia High School League decided to offer this year’s esports pilot she says her perspective has changed substantially.

“It makes a difference not just for the parents but also for the kids,” says Perera. “It’s something they’re aiming for. There’s goals here for school pride.”

And Norton says he’s noticed a difference too.

“We’ve taken a different approach now that we are playing in a league,” says Norton. “We’ve started actually practicing rather than just getting on and playing for a couple of hours. We’re starting to implement different types of drills, different things for us to focus on, that will help us improve as a team faster than just playing the game would.”

Before, says Norton, they were playing to improve, but not with a set goal in mind. Now, with the league, they’re practices are more targeted and their goals are clear.

And despite the pressure of competition and the desire to win, all three players say their time spent playing Rocket League hasn’t increased since the league started. If anything, they might play slightly less.

Miles Carey is an assistant principal at Washington-Liberty. He coaches the school’s League of Legends Team and oversees the esports program at large.

“When the state says this is academically valid and we want to support it, I have to do a lot less explaining,” says Carey.

Carey started the school’s gaming club three years ago. Since then he’s seen the benefits of allowing students to practice the games they’re already playing in a structured environment.

“If a kid is playing basketball 10 hours a week in the park, why not give them a structured environment to play it,” Carey says. “I think it is great for kids to take something they are already passionate about, make it a way to connect with the school and learn more from it.”

Carey says when it comes to the benefits of playing esports there’s a lot of overlap with traditional sports.

Students learn teamwork and communication. How to handle stress and overcome failure. They work to balance time spent playing their sport against other commitments.

Carey says his students are more comfortable with technology. Some of them have even learned how to build their own computers in pursuit of having the best gaming machine.

And while the majority of students who play esports at Washington-Liberty are involved in another school sponsored activity, a third of them are not.

The success of high school esports is dependent on the accessibility of necessary technology.

PlayVS, which launched in April 2018, provides and manages the technical platform that allows high schools in the United States to create esports teams and participate in leagues with neighboring schools.

It costs $64 per student, per league, per season. Sometimes this fee is paid by the student’s parent or guardian, other times schools have enough money set aside to cover the cost themselves.

The software allows the teams to battle remotely. In the digital age, this may seem unsurprising, but in the early 2000s, to compete against one another, gamers had to physically wire their computers together. This meant dragging your computer to a local area network, or an LAN.

Today, LANs are still considered the purest form of esports competition, since players are in the same location, eliminating the possibility of lag due to distance. But, thanks to new software, like that provided by PlayVS, high school players can verse opponents from across the state in real time.

And by partnering with game publishers, PlayVS is able to pull data from matches and track player performance.

These tools are important to coaches, but also to recruiters, looking to attract talented esports players to top universities and colleges.

“There was an opportunity to actually engage them in a competition where the incentive could be something that’s meaningful to them at that stage in their life, which a high school championship is within your state,” says PlayVS CEO and founder Delane Parnell.

And while the platform does provide the necessary tools for students to get recruited by colleges and maybe, one day go pro, Parnell says when he created PlayVS, he was mostly thinking about the kids that simply play for fun.

“Less than 1 percent of kids will go pro,” Parnell says. “We actually are focused on making sure that the 99 percent of kids who just care about video games and want to find community and want to be celebrated for a talent that they have are actually able to do so.”

At Washington-Liberty, Rocket League player Calvin Forinash has a similar mindset.

“I don’t think of any of us think that we’re gonna go pro and I think it’s good for us to realize that so that we don’t accidentally put too much time into it and not end up getting anything out of it,” he says. “We understand enough about what we can do with this that we are putting in a relatively healthy amount of time, to the point where we can still do other stuff, but still enjoy the game as well.”

But even if they don’t go pro, esports presents other professional opportunities.

Jason Chung, an assistant professor of Esports Management and executive director of Esports at the University of New Haven’s College of Business, says that as the industry continues to grow there are plenty of other ways to be involved.

There’s esports marketing, business management and game development. Players need physical therapists, trainers, coaches and team managers.

He says the professionalization of the industry has also helped erode negative gaming stereotypes. Esports has shown that gaming doesn’t have to be solitary and instead can be incredibly communal.

It has also pushed back against the idea of all gamers as individuals who are physically unfit.

“I think in a certain way there has been some truth to the narrative, in terms of the stereotypes of gamers, as chugging Mountain Dew and eating Doritos in a basement. That was a stereotype for a reason,” says Chung.

But, he says that is largely no longer the case.

“I think the thing that’s changed now in the professional space is that they’re realizing that just having screen time and training, is not sufficient,” says Chung. “You need to do other things to make the athletes healthy all around.”

While Chung believes that esports belong in high schools, he believes that politicians and administrators need to take a bigger role to regulate esports before it gets too big.

“I’d like to see is a little bit more leadership by state and local actors and hopefully with some federal coordination to really outline what principles and what sort of values they want to instill [through esports],” Chung says. “What are some of the physical fitness requirements you want to actually put in there? Because ultimately, whether it’s a sport or a tech product or whatever it is, if we’re going to have high school age kids play it, you want to have some sort of healthy mindset in there.”

Parnell thinks that PlayVS’s partnership with local high schools is a step in the right direction and helps prevent players from getting burned out too early or from developing “toxic behavior.”

“I think what makes this more sustainable overall is that we’re actually providing a structured environment for kids to play video games, which they would otherwise do unstructured,” Parnell says. “We’ve implemented a coach, which is an adult in the room and that is super important.”

This year Virginia is piloting their esports league. If enough students are interested and funds are available they’ll offer it again next year, if not, then it’s game over.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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