The anti-Olympics take coming from surfers has been played out. Any and all arguments based on the idea that “that’s just not surfing” – whether it’s from the mouth of a respected industry insider, a professional athlete or the average fan – typically  weaves in some kind of contradiction. Unless you’re a hermit who has boycotted every surf brand ever (which is pretty hard to do as a surfer because you’ve definitely worn a wetsuit, owned a board and/or a pair of trunks/bikini), watched or participated in no form of competition in your life and never given a penny to crack open a magazine, your inclusion in the wave riding clan is somehow attached to people putting on jerseys and being judged for how they make a turn.
The sport and lifestyle opens itself to inclusion from a lot of different cultures, different ways to ride a wave, different boards to ride them on, and the list goes on and on. There are endless possibilities for what surfing can be, so to take the side that Olympic inclusion just doesn’t work is to say your definition of the sport (or whatever you define surfing as) is the end all be all of riding waves. Maybe you just don’t like the idea, and that’s all it is. And that’s fine. But on some level we owe the growth of the sport and all the opportunities that come with it to competitive surfing. Bringing it all to the Olympic stage is simply an evolution of that…an evolution I may or may not have enough interest in to watch come 2020, but that’s not my point.
Kelly Slater, on the other hand, just made the most coherent and sensible argument for why surfing in the Olympics is going to be…weird. He doesn’t say he hates the idea. He’s not ranting against the man. In fact it wasn’t too long ago the guy said he wants to put on a Team USA jersey. But before the announcement was made that surfing will be included in the Tokyo Games he sat down for an interview with American broadcaster Joe Buck, in which Slater offered this thought: what if every world title was decided in a single week or two, based on a single performance at a single location? If that were the criteria for world titles Mr. Slater would have like eleventy-billion of them and not just eleven.
Touché, Kelly.