‘Small and funky’ waves preoccupy surfing debut at Tokyo Olympics | Tokyo Olympics 2020


Surfing’s long-awaited debut at the Olympics in Japan will introduce its talented athletes and enviable beach lifestyle to an audience of millions, many of whom will be watching the sport for the first time. But the typical summer waves at the Tsurigasaki Beach venue – small, short, and lacking in power – left some contestants and fans wondering if the show might not have been a better bet for the Tokyo Games.

Wave pools, using a variety of mechanical systems to create an almost identical and perfect surf on demand, have appeared in the world in recent years. They are now part of the professional surf circuit and have introduced the sport to remote areas of the coast.

Seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore said she liked the idea of ​​a wave pool for the Olympics, where competition will only take place every four years and not everyone will be the same. chance to surf the best waves in their series. “So a wave pool made sense that we had the same opportunity as each other and it depends on your performance on the wave and that’s it,” said the Australian.

Fernando Aguerre, president of the International Surfing Association, said that in 2015, when surfing was invited to apply for the Tokyo Olympics, organizers told him the competition was to take place in the ocean. “It was OK for us, because at that time, most of the technology that exists today did not exist, so it was in the Stone Age for surfing artificial waves,” he said. declared.

Aguerre explained that research into years of waves and winds suggested that Tsurigasaki Beach, also known as Shidashita Beach, would have at least a few days of decent surfing during the eight-day competition window available during the winter months. Olympic Games. “The place is known to be exposed to good swells for this time of year,” he said. “It’s very consistent, it has hosted international competitions, Japanese national competitions, so we are very confident.”

Surfers participating in the Games say they are used to dealing with a range of conditions and are honing their skills in small waves. “The whole world is going to watch us, it’s pretty important for the sport and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” said two-time Brazilian world champion Gabriel Medina, big favorite for medals. “It’s going to be complicated because the waves in Japan are a bit hard – it’s small and funky – so it’s going to be complicated. But if you want to be the best, you have to do it all in all conditions.

Despite his early thoughts on hosting the Olympic competition in a wave pool, Gilmore said nothing beats the magic of the ocean. “I know Japan has some great beaches and they really want to show surfing in its most authentic form,” said the 33-year-old. “Once I think of it that way, I love the idea of ​​surfing in the ocean. “

Tsurigasaki beach, site of the Olympic surfing competition. Photograph: Carl Court / Getty Images

For surfers heading to the 2024 Olympics, a very different challenge awaits them. The Paris Games surf competition will take place at Teahupo’o, a beautiful, mighty and terribly shallow reef on the French island of Tahiti that has hosted some of the most spectacular surfing competitions of all time.

“I know that at the Olympics we have a lot of amateur surfers and for them showing up to a place like Tahiti and surfing Teahupo’o for the first time could be very dangerous,” said Gilmore. “But I think a lot of surfers are going to love it, they are going to really enjoy this experience.”


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