Surfers and surf lovers, rejoice! As of August 3, 2016, surfing is officially an Olympic sport! It will be included in the Tokyo 2020 program, alongside Karate, baseball/softball, skateboarding and sport climbing.
At the beginning of August, 2016, just as the Olympics Games in Rio were in full blast, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that it would add five new sports to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, including surfing, which add up to a grand total of 474 athletes competing in 18 new events. There are currently 28 Summer Olympic sports and the event program is expected to be finalized by the end of 2017.
Thomas Bach, International Olympic Committee President motivated the decision with the desire to introduce sports to the young. He explained:
“With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them. Tokyo 2020’s balanced proposal fulfills all of the goals of the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation that allowed it. Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”
The focus on young athletes was highlighted again by Yoshiro Mori, Tokyo 2020 President, who stated that the inclusion of the sports will allow young athletes to have a shot at their dreams of being in the Olympics. Also taken into consideration when assessing the inclusion of the sports in the Olympic program, was the gender equality impact and the legacy value.
Image credit: olympic.org
But all is not rosy among the surf community. The reaction from surfing fans and surfers, in general, has been less than enthusiastic. Some, including surf legend Kelly Slater, have spoken out about the possible issues with evaluating surfers in the Olympics. Slater mentioned something that all surf lovers know, that surfing is a sport that is highly location and weather-dependent sport. Choosing to bestow the Olympic gold medal to someone, declaring them to be the best in the world, based on a single event, would leave plenty of room for error.
But, many people have already solved this issue by suggesting the introduction of a wave pool. Kelly Slater himself has been working on constructing a wave pool that gives perfect barrels for nearly a decade. He unveiled it this year, in Bakersfield, California and many believe that this could be the answer to the 2020 Olympics.
Others, such as Corky Carroll, a former pro surfer, simply believes that “Surfing is too cool for the Olympics”. Skateboarders have also been keen to share with the world their unenthusiastic reaction to the inclusion of skateboarding in the Olympics, saying that skateboarding is not a sport. They even seemed to be offended by the inclusion, and created an online petition aimed at Bach, asking for the removal of skateboarding from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Regardless of the side you are on, when it comes to surfing becoming an Olympics event, we can all agree that exposure of the sport can only help surfing. It has long stopped being something that only a handful of people could do, teens or men. Surfing is for everyone, for men and women, for young and old. No matter who you are and what you do, you can enjoy surfing. Whether you are just starting out and are in dire need of a surf lesson, or you’re hoping to get to the 2020 Olympics, surfing is your means of expression. And something this wonderful needs to be celebrated and promoted.
Surfing is growing in popularity and is now bigger than ever. No wonder it was included in the Olympics! You might not be competing in the 2020 Olympics, but you can still train hard and join a surf camp to brush up your skills.