What surfing in the Olympics could look like, for better or worse. Photo: WebberWavePools.com
Last week, Fernando Aguerre, President of the International Surfing Association, submitted a formal bid to the International Olympic Committee, trying (not for the first time) to get the sport of surfing recognized as a sanctioned event at the 2020 Tokyo Games. Aguerre has been beseeching the IOC for the last two decades with such requests, and he’s banking on artificial wave technology to finally allow surfers to go for the gold.
“Official bids were made in 2011 for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Games, but the main reason we weren’t included at the time was the lack of proper wave-making technologies,” explains Aguerre. “But now the proper wave technology for world-class or Olympic surfing competitions is available.” Wavegarden, the wave engineers responsible for the supposed creation of world-class surf destinations in land-locked areas, could be Aguerre’s biggest selling point.
New technology aside, the notion of surfing molding itself to the principles of the Olympic games raises plenty of questions. There are the issues of fairness, regulations, and well, if we really want to quantify waveriding more than we already have. To get a general consensus on the topic, we asked a handful of surfers, writers, and editors to share their opinions the last time this was in the news, in 2012. The question remains:
Should surfing be an Olympic sport?
Taylor Knox, Veteran World Tour Surfer:
Surfing should be an Olympic Sport for sure. We surf against the best surfers from countries around the world on the ASP. It would be unreal competing alongside Kelly Slater against friends like Mick Fanning, while representing the U.S.A. Now more then ever there are many countries with talented surfers. Signs point to continuing in this direction. It would be hard to have the event when the hosting city is land locked, but with the way technology is going it seems we will be able to bring world class waves and surfing anywhere.
Sean Doherty, SURFER Senior Writer:
No, no and err…no. Olympic sports are all anchored around fairness and level playing fields, but the ocean doesn’t offer that. The only way surfing would ever be considered an Olympic sport is if it was held in wave pools, and if it was held in wave pools then I wouldn’t consider it surfing. The fact that no two waves are ever the same is what makes surfing, surfing. It’s not designed to be fair. The ocean isn’t fair, and unless you’re Kelly the ocean really doesn’t give a shit about you.
Fernando Aguerre, ISA President:
If surfing were to be included in the Olympics, I don’t think it would change the sport at all. Look at snowboarding for a future view of what surfing could look like if it were a part of the Olympics. I don’t believe surfing needs to change anything to become part of the Games. I believe it’s just a matter of time until it happens. We’re very close. The Duke asked for surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics as early as 1920, but the biggest drawback is the fact that waves don’t exist in many of the Games’ host cities. Hence, manmade waves will be needed. The IOC wants to see solid world-class waves, so surfing’s future in the Olympic Games could be assured. I believe this technology will be available at a reasonable cost in the very near future.
Matt Warshaw, SURFER Historian:
Thought I was done being pissed off over the 100-year mainstreaming of this wonderful sport. Thought I was old enough, and far away enough from Orange County, to not much care. But the thought of surfing in the Olympics brings a familiar dab of bile to my throat. Can we just all agree to pretend, for a little while longer, that surfing is a unique thing to do? That this difference has in fact always been it’s strength?
Gabriel Medina, World Champ:
Yes, I think surfing should be included, and I would absolutely love to surf in the Olympics. It would be such a great honor to represent my country. Plus, it would be a sick competition with the Brazilians teaming together against the other counties. And of course we would win. Haha! Hopefully it will happen.
Dave Prodan, ASP International Media Manager:
Personally, I’m a big fan of the Olympics and enjoy any activity that pits nations against one another in friendly competition. However, I am torn on whether or not surfing is an appropriate fit for it. I absolutely think the athleticism performed by surfers qualifies it as a worthy activity, but the lack of a static playing field would be a challenge to hosting a worthy event in some nations and a virtual impossibility in others.
Damien Hobgood, Veteran World Tour Surfer:
This may sound like a selfish or a bad thing, but I’ve never really been that into seeing surfing in the Olympics. I love the Olympics, but for some reason seeing surfing as part of that hasn’t ever really been something that I’ve felt very strongly about. I’m sure that there are a lot of kids out there who dream about surfing in the Olympics, and I think that’s great, but it’s not something I’m particularly passionate about. I love the idea of representing my country, but I feel like I do that anyway right now.