Surfing in 2020: Do Surfers Even Want to be in the Olympics?

What surfing in the Olympics could look like, for better or worse. Photo:
What surfing in the Olympics could look like, for better or worse. Photo:

Surfing in the Olympics? It’s been selected by the Tokyo Olympic powers that be. But why is it even being considered? Technology.

The challenges up till now for holding surfing competitions in the Olympics is how to ensure a level playing field for all surfers. After all, waves with the same or similar difficulty levels don’t come when you want them to in the big blue ocean. And what do you do if the venue for the summer games is land-locked?

Technology appears to be the wave that surfing enthusiasts in support of making it an Olympic sport are betting on. Now wavepools are becoming so sophisticated that specific heights and shapes of waves can be created and repeated consistently so that wave patterns can be replicated for competition.

According to Fernando Aquerre, President of the International Surfing Association, surfing wasn’t initially selected as an Olympic sport in 2011 because of the lack of proper wave-making technologies. “But now the proper wave technology or world-class or Olympic surfing competitions is available,” he wrote in this article.

Apparently it’s still open as to whether a competition in 2020 in Tokyo would be in a wave pool or in the ocean. But the debate is on as to which is more appropriate. Here are a few point/counterpoint from Surfermag:

Surfing should be an Olympic Sport for sure. 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. – Taylor Knox, Veteran World Tour Surfer

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. – Sean Doherty, Surfer Senior Writer

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. – Gabriel Medina, World Champ

…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 its strength? – Matt Warshaw, Surfer Historian

What is it like to surf in a wave pool? Take a look!