A surfer drops in on a large wave at Praia do Norte in Nazare, Portugal, in December. Photo: REUTERS file

Waxed and ready, surfing ready to ride into Tokyo

By Martyn Herman

Like a wave originating thousands of kilometers out in the deep ocean before crashing onto a distant beach, so surfing's inclusion in the Olympic family has had a long fetch.

What began with a ripple of interest when Hawaiian surfing icon Duke Kahanamoku first advocated the sport's Olympic inclusion, has become a reality with it debuting in Tokyo next year.

Inspired by Kahanamoku's legacy, the International Surfing Association's (ISA) charismatic president, Fernando Aguerre, has been the driving force behind the sport's inclusion.

And the 62-year-old Argentine believes those International Olympic Committee (IOC) members who made the decision to open a once-locked door at the 2016 vote, following a failed attempt to win a spot at the Beijing Games in 2008, will not be disappointed.

Aguerre said surfing will ring "positive bells" for an Olympic movement trying to ride a wave of millennials with a vast appetite for cool lifestyle sports far removed from old staples such as weightlifting and fencing.

"It took a long, long time. But eventually things changed in the world and inside the Olympic movement," Aguerre, who has been president since 1995, told Reuters from his La Jolla base.

"Many doors that were locked were opened allowing for a renewal of the Olympic program. You don't want to be presiding over a movement that is bigger, but not healthy. It needs a more human scale."

Skateboarding, often described as sidewalk surfing, also makes its debut in Tokyo, as does sport climbing -- evidence of the IOC's evolution, according to entrepreneur Aguerre who, with brother Santiago, founded the Reef beachwear brand in the 1980s.

"The IOC has been very clever," he said. "It's a great selection. It's like the Olympic Games dinner table needed a good salad and the salad is made of action sports. We were in the right place at the right time. We were ready and waxed and preparing for the wave. When it came in we were there to paddle and ride it."

But what exactly does a sport in which the vibe is as, if not more, important than winning, have to do with the old Olympic motto of "faster, higher, stronger"?

"I haven't heard one top surfer saying any kind of bad comments about the Olympics," Aguerre said.

"The vast majority look at the Olympics as a new wave. It doesn't take anything away from the wave we surf every day on every beach.

"Of course competition adds a hard edge. But unlike sports like tennis or fencing, which are confrontational, with action sports like surfing it's the other way around. They are activities first and foremost.

"And the ocean is free. No tickets, no tools, you can be the son of the janitor or the son of Bill Gates and it doesn't matter. You can be black or white, fat or skinny, old or young, male or female, it doesn't really matter in the ocean. That is not that common in today's world."

With recent Olympics, such as Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and Sochi two years earlier, criticized for waste and white elephant venues, Tokyo 2020 organizers have vowed to make their Games green and sustainable.

The athletes' village will be hydrogen-powered while 60 percent of the venues will utilize existing facilities.

So eco-friendly surfing, which needs just a beach and hopefully some waves, appears a perfect fit, especially since the competitions will take place on popular Tsurigasaki Beach, 70 kms from Tokyo, rather than in a man-made wave park which had originally been considered.

While a wave park would have guaranteed the schedule, Aguerre says that would have short-changed the fans.

"We decided that the beach was the best place," Aguerre, who still rides his longboard every day in California, said.

"We have extra days if needed. The important thing is this is not just a surfing competition, this is the arrival of surfing in the Olympic family. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.

"By having it on the beach, it will be a festival to educate people into surfing, the environment, the threat to the ocean.

"There will be surf-based music, art, all the surfing DNA will be on display. We are ambassadors for the ocean."

Gold medals will be at stake too but Aguerre says, in surfing, you can't fail. "You're just playing with waves."

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Surfing in Tokyo?

No thanks....

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It’s not as bad as you think.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Surfing in Tokyo?

No thanks....

Considering that the Izu and Ogasawara islands are part of Tokyo, yes please.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The Olympic surfing will be held in Hebara, Chiba, about three hours drive from Tokyo, plus traffic jams. It’s a really bad place to have it. There is only one single lane road and virtually no public transport. There is also very little parking. It will create a traffic jam covering half of Chiba because every man and his dog are going to want to see it. Furthermore, the surf in August is very fickle and will most likely be less than a meter high with onshore winds (sloppy white soup). I’m excited to see surfing included in the games, but the venue and timing are going to be far from exciting for its debute.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Do The Hustle nailed it....

I’m excited to see surfing included in the games, but the venue and timing are going to be far from exciting for its debute.

Including surfing in the Olympics means that you would be able to provide for this event in Summer Olympic after Summer Olympic.

And, as much as I love and cherish surfing as a long-boarder, this is virtually impossible if it requires surfiing in a natural environment.

For example, Beijing or London or Rio..... would they be able to accommodate surfing in a natural environment.

Of course not!

So... what does that mean??

If you want to include surfing, you have to consider the idea of an artificial surf generating facility to allow this to be a sport on an ongoing basis.

That aside, I love surfing out at Chiba or in Shimoda. Some really good beach breaks, particularly during typhoon season!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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