USA Surfing is the National Governing Body for the sport of surfing in America. The sport will be featured for the first time in the Tokyo summer Olympics in 2020. USA Surfing is headquartered in San Clemente, California.
Sports Destination Management: Surfing is an Olympic sport – or it will be, in two years’ time. What has that meant to you as an organization? Has it made a difference?
Greg Cruse: We needed to completely reorganize to meet the requirements of the USOC for governance, board makeup, bylaws and more. At the same time, though, there’s the cache of the rings. There is a definite cool factor.
SDM: Has it changed anything about the pro teams you’re selecting?
Cruse: We traditionally have put our focus on our juniors – those under the age of 18 – in order to prepare them to compete in the pro league and the World Surf League qualifying series – and we’ve been super-successful at that. Those programs have allowed us to put some of the juniors on the World Tour at younger ages than ever before. They are now the elite athletes who will be representing us at the Olympics in 2020.
SDM: Has the team been named?
Cruse: No, we are waiting for information from our international federation on what the qualifications will be. There are currently 40 slots available to represent surfing: 20 men and 20 women, and no country will be able to have more than four athletes: two men and two women each, maximum. We will fill the slots on our team based on the qualifications once they’re announced.
SDM: Shifting gears for a moment: how many events does USA Surfing put on each year?
Cruse: We offer 10 events around the country, plus events in adaptive surfing. We also hold training camps around the country.
SDM: What do you take into account when you’re evaluating a location to host an event for USA Surfing?
Cruse: Primarily, it’s the quality of the surf. Depending on where you are, you want to run events in the season when you’re most likely to have good surf. There was just a SUP event in Denmark, of all places – their northern coast is nicknamed ‘Cold Hawai’i’ but there are great waves over there.
Beyond the surf, you are looking for amenities in the town, like hotels and restaurants and things to do, and also the interest from the CVB in bringing in surfing and training programs. We look for good proximity, since the bulk of our surfers will be traveling.
SDM: Have there been any changes in the cities you choose?
Cruse: A new wrinkle for us has been the advent of wave pools – they are being built in places like Las Vegas, Waco – a lot of cities that wouldn’t be able to host otherwise. It makes them great places for events as well as for training.
SDM: What is the economic impact like for the sport?
Cruse: I just did a presentation on that. Part of what I was telling the convention and visitors bureaus was that like other sports facilities, wave pools will bring in a huge amount of tourism dollars. San Clemente did a study on the economic impact and found the sport brought in $13 million annually. That’s one city, and it’s one full year, but it’s also a real surf destination. As far as a single event goes, I can’t guarantee it will bring in quite that much, but you’ll still have hundreds of families staying two to three nights each, plus airfare, cars, shopping, eating – it’s a pretty significant economic impact.
SDM: Are there a lot of families in the sport?
Cruse: Yes! They’re loading up the minivan with the kids and going up and down the coast to compete. As the kids get older, they’re going across the country. And it used to be the only way kids ever got into the sport was if their parents surfed. Now, with the potential of being an Olympian, it has made the sport much more attractive. We’re starting to see kids from families where the parents don’t surf and have never surfed. I think surfing is going to be the curling of the Summer Olympics in that it will attract a new group of fans – people who have never tried it before but now want to because it looks cool. SDM