Live Updates: Tokyo Olympics: NPR

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Caroline Marks of the United States competes in the Tokyo 2020 Women’s First Round of Surfing at Tsurigasaki Surf Beach in Chiba Prefecture, Japan on Sunday.

Du Yu / Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images


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Caroline Marks of the United States competes in the Tokyo 2020 Women’s First Round of Surfing at Tsurigasaki Surf Beach in Chiba Prefecture, Japan on Sunday.

Du Yu / Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

Surfing has deep roots, but for the first time surfers are competing for medals at the Summer Olympics. On Tsurigasaki Beach, 40 miles from Tokyo, they are also surfing big waves before a tropical storm.

“The rising tide during the afternoon seems to provide a lot of fun waves,” reports Kurt Korte, the official surf forecaster for the Tokyo Olympics. He works for Surfline, a company based in Huntington Beach, California. He says even though it can rain on Tsurigasaki Beach, it should be a great day for the surf finals at the Olympics.

Although new to the Olympics, surfing has a long history

In pre-Inca Peru and wherever there was an ocean nearby, people were surfing in one form or another. The ancient warriors of Tahiti and Samoa trained while surfing. In Polynesia, surfing was also considered an art. But modern surfing … balancing on a board to ride the waves for fun … became popular at the turn of the 20th century in Hawaii.

Surfing at the Olympics was a Hawaii dream Duke Kahanamoku over a century ago. Decades before Hawaii became an American state, it got five olympic medals (three gold and two silver) for swimming, from 1912. Kahanamoku had grown up surfing with his brothers in Waikiki.

“Hi surfers, aloha,” he says in old movie footage. A CBS News reporter in the 1960s once asked him, “Duke, was it more exciting for you to win those Olympics or ride some of those giant waves at Castle Surf that you used to ride?” ? “

“I think surfing is so much more to me, the greatest thrill of my life,” he replied.

Tall, with broad shoulders and a big smile, Kohanamoku promoted surfing as he traveled the world. He even did a few cameos in Hollywood … often playing Hawaiian chefs, like he did in the 1948 film The awakening of the red witch.

There is a statue of Duke Kohonamoku in Huntington Beach, California, also known as Surf City USA. This is one of the Southern California surf spots that made its way into pop culture in the 1950s and 1960s.

Hollywood featured surfing in Gidget’s films in the 1950s. And the Beach Boys sang “Everybody’s Gone Surf ‘, Surfin’ USA”.

The chill atmosphere of the Olympics and surfing could clash

At novelty shows years ago, surfers on long boards would lift bikini partners like pair figure skaters. And there were surfing contests, says former pro surfer Matt Warshaw, who hosted a Surf Encyclopedia.

“There’s a lot of competition going on in the water, wanting to be better than the surfer next to you or wanting to do better than the last time you surfed or just competing for the waves, because the resource is so limited, “he says. “But it’s tricky when it comes to getting people together, sending them out and trying to figure out who wins.”

Warshaw, who wrote and edited Surfer Magazine says formal competitions, especially the Olympics, don’t exactly match the endless summer, meditative and relaxing vibe of surfing.

“Instead of going out there and finding a good wave, you have to surf when someone else tells you to, and the idea is to go out and beat the other guy or the other three guys,” explains Warshaw. “It’s almost the opposite of what most people surf for.”

Unlike most other sports competing at the Olympics, says Warshaw, surfing depends a lot on Mother Nature: the wind and the waves. “The ocean is not doing what you expect it to do,” he notes.

Surfing depends on Mother Nature

San Onofre Beach, north of San Diego, is one of 19-year-old Caroline Marks’ local getaways. She started surfing in Florida at the age of three, sitting on the back of her father’s long board. Marks became the youngest woman to compete in a World Surf League event. Now, along with Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, Marks is surfing the Tokyo Olympics for Team USA.

Caroline Marks of Team USA reacts after winning her third women’s round on Monday of the 2020 Olympics at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach.

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Caroline Marks of Team USA reacts after winning her third women’s round on Monday of the 2020 Olympics at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach.

Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

“It’s super surreal and amazing and pretty amazing. So I’m thrilled,” she said at a surf competition before leaving for Japan.

Marks is a surfer with clumsy feet, which means she uses her right foot in front of her surfboard. With its low position, it sprays the sky as it approaches the lip of a wave. She says the Olympics opens up surfing to a wider audience across the world. But she tries to maintain her cool surf vibe.

“I guess I’m just thinking about the next wave,” she said. “It’s so special to be in the ocean. It’s like you’re just living in the moment, I guess. So that’s pretty cool.”

At the Olympics, she’ll have to live in the moment AND compete at the same time. “Yes, of course,” she said. “I think when you think less is almost better, at least for myself. You know, if I kind of do it and kind of go with the flow, that’s when- where I do my best. “

On the US Men’s Olympic Surf Team are John Florence of Hawaii and Kolohe Andino of San Clemente, Calif.

“Honestly, I want to compete like a wild beast,” Andino said. “Relentless and yeah, ready to rip heads off.”

Gnarly or chill, these surfers are hoping for sick waves for the Olympic finals. But with the ocean, you never know.

Team USA’s Kolohe Andino reacts after his victory on Matchday 3 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on Monday.

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Team USA’s Kolohe Andino reacts after his victory on Matchday 3 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on Monday.

Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

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