The 2017 International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games are set to begin here in the French town of Biarritz tomorrow with a record number of teams taking to the waves.
This year’s competition is set to break the previous record of participating countries set at the 1996 edition in Huntington Beach in the United States, when 36 nations took part.
Organisers confirmed this evening that 47 countries are preparing to compete, a significant increase on last year's edition held in Costa Rica.
The competition consists of national surfing teams comprised of four men and two women.
They will be trying to win individual and team medals.
The event will give the sport the chance to showcase itself before its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.
Surfing was added to the Olympic sports programme for Tokyo 2020 in August 2016, after decades of ISA campaigning underpinned by a strategy of global growth and development.
Action here is set to begin tomorrow with the Opening Ceremony.
The teams will participate in the traditional Parade of Nations and Sands of the World Ceremony with each country bringing sand from their local beaches.
After the Opening Ceremony, competition is due to begin at La Grande Plage with the women’s event.
Women’s action will conclude on Monday (May 22) before the men’s event takes centre stage on Tuesday (May 23).
Peru are the defending team champions after claiming the gold medal in Playa Jacó, Costa Rica last year.
American Tia Blanco was crowned the women’s gold medallist for the second consecutive Games while Leandro Usuna of Argentina was the men’s gold medallist for the second time in three years, after winning the 2014 title as well.
“The international growth of the sport of surfing, and as a result the ISA World Surfing Games, has been truly incredible,” said ISA President Fernando Aguerre.
“Surfing’s popularity is extending to new corners of the globe as well as strengthening in more traditional surfing nations.
“The ISA World Surfing Games is our flagship event and our sport’s high performance and youthful qualities will make it the perfect fit for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“Surfing’s ability to reach a new young audience will bring a whole new selection of fans to the Games.
“I am looking forward to watching the high level of competition to be showcased in Europe’s surfing capital of Biarritz.
“The athletes will be surfing with the desire to represent their countries in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”
The 2017 edition of the World Surfing Games also marks the ISA’s first event since the announcement of an official partnership with the Olympic Channel.
Live coverage of the ISA World Surfing Games in France will be shown on the Channel throughout the duration of the event.