WaveMakers Ep. 7: Inside the Catalan Surf Federation with President Carlos

WaveMakers 7 is about surfing federations and we chat with Carlos López, the president of the Catalan Surf Ferederation. You'll learn what is a Surfing Federation, if you should be part of it, which watersports are included, events, how is funded and much more ... including wavepools.

Audio in Spanish, transcript in English: 


OK. First of all, who are you?
I am Carlos López, the president of the Catalan Surf Federation.

And what exactly is the Catalan Surf Federation?
The Catalan Surf Federation is the entity that carries everything that is part of the promotion of sports and within what is competitions, training, let's say the one that governs Catalonia, on surfing and its different modalities.

What goals has The Federation right now?
Well, the main objective is the promotion of sport. We, as I told you before, are an entity that promotes and its main objective is to promote the sport in all its aspects, both at a competitive level as well as at an amateur level, and basically that is our main objective.

Okay, what you say is interesting to me, at a professional level and at an amateur level, since a person who does surf as a hobby, do you need to be federated?
There's no need, It is recommended. It's like when we go to practice mountaineering to the mountains. It is not our environment. We don't have “guts”, we don't know how to swim since the beginning. It’s not our environment. It is always advisable to be covered for all the things that can happen. It's not mandatory, not for the moment. They don't force us to have insurance to be able to go practice our sport, but it is recommended, and we believe that from the Federation it is important to be able to count with an insurance that can cover you, right?

That's why in the last three or four years, we have created an insurance in which what it provides to you is civil liability insurance and accident insurance that covers that if you hurt someone or hurt yourself you can also go and heal yourself. So basically, for an amateur person, for any surfer, is it like a kind of insurance?
Yes, exactly.

Ok. And the federations, is it a public organization or a privately funded organization?
The Federation is mostly a private organization. Yes, we have delegated public powers of the sport promotion in our modality. Like any other federation, the resources those available to any national federation, they are own resources that are given for the licenses, insurances, training courses, activities, that the Federation itself can promote and other part that are the subsidies. We are a very small federation and recently created and we are still not in everything that is... Everything that is the wheel of subsidies, our main source of income are our own resources.

And on the other hand, at a professional level, as a professional surfer, does it offer anything more, beyond insurance?
It gives you the competition license, that allows you to compete at an international level. Our licenses are homologated at the national level. Needless. Many years ago you needed to have two types of license, the license here in Catalonia to be able to compete in Catalonia and a national license because we were not integrated in the Spanish Surfing Federation. It was my first goal so that people do not have to pay two licenses, now we have a single license and it is valid in all Spain. And currently we have people. For example, Vicente Romero, professional surfer with our license, is competing in the WSL.

Okay, this is interesting. because the other day, thinking about it, it reminded me a little, the whole thing. of the surf federations, a bit to what happens in the world of boxing, that there are like 200 different federations. Here in Catalonia we see that it exists also the Canoe Federation, who picks up some water sports... On the Surf Federation, where it is limited on the aquatic sports? What sports does it include? What sports doesn't?
Well, basically we could say that the Surf Federation encompasses all sliding aquatic sports that do not imply a motor. We could say “well it's also sliding water skiing” for example. But needs a boat to be carried and doesn't have a flag like wind or wind foil or windsurfing. Those ones we slide on the water and the only one, for example, that we do have, is the stand up paddle that we do use an oar, but unlike any other of these, we use a single blade paddle.

Okay then in the end in all countries we have the same, we have regional or autonomous federations, in this case we have here in Spain. Then we have the National Federation that encompasses or brings together to all federations autonomous or professional, and then we have the International Federation, to which we all are added. Yes, it is also true that talking with other people of the sector, for example schools, shops in Barcelona, many people that doesn't know that a federation exists or what it is for. Now we have cleared doubt, which is like a kind of insurance and so on, but it's true that sometimes they have told me look: “Well, we have proposed something to the Surf Federation and we haven't had much of a response...” why?
Well I don't know any punctual specific case, but we are open to anyone, anyone that requests support from us. We, from the Federation we support everyone. It’s based on the fact that the federation is made up of the clubs, basically the federations belong to the clubs. Here who decides and who rules it is a general assembly, that is, not a person, is not me. As president I represent the Federation by mandate, but in the end who makes the decisions and so on, are the members of this federation, which are the clubs, and we have done many activities with people that wasn’t federated with the Federation, and we have supported any other type of events. We are right now working on inclusive sport, we are working on reintegration of people who come from outside. We have done surfing championships in which we have given some license to people who cannot afford it, because they don’t have the money and well, we believe that we are doing good things, little by little. Yes, it is true that we would like to be able to do things better and much faster, but back to the same. We are a federation very small, very recent. Please note that we were functioning as a Union of Clubs since 2012, which is when we were born. But the conversion to Federation it wasn't until 2021. COVID led to a paperwork delay with the administration of the Generalitat and until 2021 we have not become a federation. We are a three years in progress federation.

And how many people are working right now in the Federation?
In the Federation consists by a board of directors of eight people, we are the ones who are working and pulling. We don't have any working employees, like other federations, because in the end, we return... It's a matter of resources, we have to do it little by little. Hand made, and with the resources we have, what we don't want is (I am a very clear person in what we do, as far as we can go) what we are not going to do is to embark on asking for subsidies that we later we will not be able to execute, and generate with our own resources the maximum we can.

OK? For example, if I have a school in Barceloneta, and I want to do an event, what kind of support could I receive?
For example, we right now in all events, the Federation is covering most of the costs, and the registrations in any competition organized by the Federation, except for the Catalan championships, that are 100% organized by us. All the clubs need to do all the registrations they may need and with this they have to cover a series of expenses, and the Federation disposes everything like the judges or the whole computer systems, everything that is “resources”, everything that we can do, with our own resources. We can say, for example, that a surf competition that we would love to be able to do more than once a year because we are a federation of surf and we enjoy organizing the competitions. Only the judges, the cost is around 3.000€ that those are paid mainly by the Federation.

And if I, for example, I want to organize an event, how I contact the Federation? Through a website?
We have the website open, we have an Instagram account and we are open to any request from any school that wants to organize an event, both to promote it as at a competitive level. They are not only competitions, they are popular events, popular rowing, an amateur party surf event, can also be organized. Soon we are going to make a paddle out march for the ALS, we are organizing it together with the Bétulo Nautical Club. There are 50,000 things that we are open to do, and that we are going to spread the word and everything we can do from our resources.

What big projects or events has the Federation done lately or which ones are in focus?
Well, the Federation (formerly Union of Clubs and currently Federation) we have been doing since the beginning a Catalan SUP Stand Up Paddle circuit that is being carried out throughout the Catalan geography. Let's say that's the type of event that we can normally do. We are holding the Championships of Catalonia Surf, Catalonia LongBoard Championship. We are also with the open championship of the Bodyboard Championship, which is a modality that we like a lot and that we want to promote a lot. In Catalonia, we have brought the Spanish Cup longboard here with the best nationals in Catalonia and currently the biggest event what we are organizing it is one of the races of the Euro Tour. It is also stand up Paddle and we are doing it in Barcelona. It's going to be the six star test most important thing we are going to do now at European level. We can say almost global.

The federation regulates in some form the environmental protection, of the beaches? Do you do something in some way at the time of do the events?
Well, we from the Federation we try to make them our events plastic free and we try not to generate any type of waste since a couple of years, for example, we did not deliver plastic water bottles, on the supplies stands after any of this, but we already have some big water drums 20 liters in which we use part of glasses recyclable biodegradable and above all, what we try is not to try to generate more pollution, we have signed now an agreement with Ecoembes to have recycling bins at all events to be able to have and offer to everyone, to all associates that in their own events or in the clubs themselves can have this type of trash cans.

What advice would you give to those who are starting out surfing in Catalonia and how they can relate with the Federation?
Basically, go to a school to professionals. School or Club Let's say, there are people who tries to do everything on his own. they are free. In other words, it is totally licit, but we believe that the most important thing is to have a very good initial training. And where will they be able to find this? It's in schools and in clubs and through clubs and schools can contact directly with us. And now that there are more and more people in the water, there are more surfers.

What is your vision of the future of surfing in Catalonia for the next five or ten years?
Well I think that surfing has a long future. We are an autonomy, that we have a lack of waves and our athletes or our surfers travel everywhere. I think that much more we can't grow, we will grow organically as much as we can grow at the population level, but currently we already have a fairly high level of athletes. Surely when they finish building these wave pools that we carry I've been listening for a few years now, the pools, pools, pools... Well possibly what we are going to see is that the progression at a sporting, technical, and other levels is going to increase, because what a pool gives us is a lot of serial waves, and what we are going to be able to do is practice a lot any type of maneuver, but at the level of popularizing, I think that right now we are already very good.

Now that you mention wave pools, what happened to wave pools? And what is going to happen?
Let's see, we have an opposition here mainly. We had a project initially the first in Spain, very close to here in Montgat. Well, in the end, it is a neighborhood opposition, an ecological position, which is mainly what we have, there has been talk about other places, both Sabadell and Cunit. All objections we have to this type of facilities are ecological. Any installation has an environmental impact. Any. But what we have to see is that in the end too it is going to give us sport, that in practice sport in the end is health, because this is one of the things that we have to take into account. Any sport practiced what generates us is well-being, health and that every time technology and these pools have improved a lot and the vast majority are we are not going to say 100% sustainable, but very sustainable.

So the ecological oppositions to wave pools are founded? Or do you think it's not that big of an impact?
I have not been able to analyze any project at 100% and yes that is true since I believe that in the end I think no one has been able to see it 100% of a project and how it is used, the water resources that are going to be used, what is the loss of that water that we can have... Because mainly now that we are on this time of drought it is important, it is important have the whole water issue under control, but surely there are many resources that they are 100% sustainable. I mean, right now the part, for example, of electrical energy that can consume, with solar panels any wave pool is totally sustainable 100% in everything that is energy consumption. Of course because at the end of the day, if it is not done here it will be done somewhere else. If it is not done here, we will miss an opportunity because we have a wave pool that they are going to build, that they are already building! In Alicante at 4:30-5 hours If it is not done here, people are going to travel abroad, the same as we currently do, cause when there is no waves here we're going north we are going to Galicia, we are going to Portugal, We're going to Bali, we're going to Sri Lanka. And if we don't do it here, we’ll miss the opportunity of having technical surfers that we can technify. Because that's what I'm telling you, a wave pool the thing that gives is a big technification And being an Olympic sport like surf, missing the opportunity to have surfers in the Olympics.

What do you think has been the greatest achievement of the Surf Federation?
The greatest achievement be born. I think the greatest achievement we have been able to born. It has costed a lot. I tell you that it has not been easy to put between the clubs and the creation of the Federation, but well, I believe that being born, It's the most important thing we've ever had currently or recently, but surely we will have some achievements forward very, very important. We have been to the Championships of Spain of Autonomies by selections, we have become fifth in Spain with the four main powers Canary Islands, Galicia, Asturias, and Cantabria. But we are there, Everyone is listening behind this saying f*ck! Catalonia is here, has very good surfers and at any moment they can take a leap.

And to finish, if you could send a message to all the surfers in Catalonia, which one would it be?
Well, the message I would send them is that, believe in the federation, we work for the sport. Basically, we don't work for anything else we are an entity that what we want is to promote 100% the sport and support in everything we can, each one with their grain of sand and we will do the same for them.
That would be it.
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