Surfing and skateboarding took a massive leap towards becoming Olympics sports today with the news that the Tokyo 2020 team have recommended their inclusion for the Summer Olympics in 2020. That’s the Olympics after next year’s event in Rio.
The IOC will make a final decision next August in Rio at the 129th IOC Session. One which could have massive ramifications for each sport. Most pro surfers and skateboarders, especially on the women’s side, appear to be super positive about the news and the chance to represent their country plus finally make a decent living from the sports which they love.
Tia Blanco from the USA, who was the 2015 ISA World Surfing Games Champion, said:
“Surfing would be an absolutely amazing addition to the Tokyo 2020 Games and I can’t wait for the opportunity to represent my country on the greatest sporting stage. The chance to surf for gold for my country in Tokyo would be a dream come true.”
While the Stand Up Paddleboarder Casper Steinfath from Denmark, who is also the ISA Vice-President and two-time World Champion said:
“Young, aspiring Surfers around the world are rejoicing today. This is a truly epic decision that will inspire and motivate all my fellow athletes to dream big and go for Gold in 2020. I am extremely stoked for my sport, but also for how surfing will bring new excitement to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games if it is admitted by the IOC next year.”
SUP would be included alongside surfing and skateboarding, with baseball/softball, karate and sports climbing also on the list, as the IOC attempts to follow the success of snowboarding and freestyle skiing’s inclusion in the Winter Olympics, which saw a lot more younger viewers engage with the Olympics.
Surfing’s inclusion had been a non-starter as too few bid cities boast decent surf breaks and even when they do you can rarely rely on conditions being good enough to hold a contest, but recent Wavegarden wave-making technology, most notably at Surf Snowdonia, has revolutionised the competition format and potential of the sport.
Earlier this month Red Bull Unleashed at Surf Snowdonia became the first contest to be held on an artificial wave and was broadly considered a success. Some will of course wonder how the sport’s inclusion in the Olympics would affect the soul of surfing, and we can expect there to be some wrangling between the World Surf League (WSL) and the International Surfing Association (ISA) over qualification criteria, as there is in snowboarding between FIS and the TTR World Tour, but all eyes will certainly be on the decision coming out of Rio in August 2016.