The debate has been raging for years. Reef owner and International Surfing Association President Fernando Aguerre has been campaigning since what feels like forever to get surfing into the Olympics, while self-described purists and those with a pragmatic bent have come up with numerous reasons why our pastime should not be a part of the Olympiad.
Where are we going to find waves for the surfers to ride?
Some argue that the whitewashed, uniformed US Olympic team looks nothing like the counter-culture beach scene that birthed modern surfing. Others worry that mandatory (and actually enforced) drug testing will wreak havoc on our ranks of Spicoli lookalikes. And besides, where are we going to find waves for the surfers to ride? Everyone who surfs knows that The Endless Summer was a hoax—surfing is a winter sport, requiring not only an ideal stretch of coastline, but also wintertime storms to produce wintertime swells.
The logistics of actually running a surf competition during the typical Summer Olympic time period make the endeavor virtually impossible. A quick review of what happened when we tried to join the X-Games is evidence of how difficult it is to integrate an activity set in such a dynamic, unpredictable playing field into the structure of a static multi-sport event.
There is also the fact that surfing has to qualify and be nominated to make it into the Olympics.
Technically we have been eligible for the past 20 years or so—in fact, we’ve been in what might be described as Olympics limbo: one category down from actual inclusion on a waiting list with other
It’s one thing to set up a 10-pin alley in Japan’s biggest city and another thing altogether to find waves.sports and pseudo-sports like squash, bowling, and poker (yes, the card game!). However, all that changed this week when the organizers of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo released a list of eight sports they had nominated for possible inclusion. The list will be narrowed down by August but currently includes baseball/softball, bowling, karate, roller sports, climbing, squash, and martial arts, in addition to surfing. Apparently, wave riding just beat snooker.
The Tokyo committee says its nominations are largely influenced by attracting young people and sports such as climbing, bowling, and surfing are currently quite popular and likely to garner added attention to the Tokyo Olympics. However, it’s one thing to set up a 10-pin alley or a climbing wall in Japan’s biggest city and another thing altogether to find waves for surfers to compete upon—particularly in in the middle of the summer. (Typhoon season would provide at least a chance at contestable waves but that doesn’t really kick in until around September).
With the recent growth in the artificial wave industry and parks springing up or being planned in places such as Texas, France, and Melbourne, it is possible that the Tokyo committee is considering bringing in some sort of wave-generating technology. A Wavegarden in Tokyo? At this point details are in short supply. We’ll know more once an official selection has been made in August.
Meanwhile, with the swell of the decade bearing down on Indo and West Australia, most of us probably couldn’t care less about country flags and medal counts. Surfers have always known where to find the gold—and it’s never been in a stadium. Olympics or not, there will be barrels this week.