“Paint art on a surfboard.”
Beautiful image, isn’t it? This is the image painted by surfer Tatiana Weston-Webb while discussing the inclusion of her sport in the Olympics.
Surfing will join four other additional sports – skateboarding, karate, sport climbing and baseball / softball joint offerings – at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The move was met with skepticism by some, questioning their right to be at the event alongside sports like track and field and swimming, when sports like squash were missed.
But here, Weston-Webb, recent winner of the US Open of Surfing, explains why she thinks it’s “the perfect fit” for the Olympics, how the sport is “in her veins” and opens up about life surfing the waves.
Why does surfing deserve a place at the Olympics?
When asked for a word to describe surfing becoming an Olympic sport, the effusive Weston-Webb pauses and thinks.
“Indescribable,” said the 20-year-old from Hawaii.
Over a century ago, Duke Kahanamoku – considered the father of modern surfing – first expressed a wish to see the sport at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.
The debut 108 years later – as part of an initiative to draw a younger audience to the Olympics – is described as a “game changer” by the president of the International Surfing Association, Fernando Aguerre, who praised the “avant-garde” attitude of the heads of the Games.
“We are especially thrilled for the athletes, including aspiring stars and current elite surfers who will have the chance to represent their nations and show their talents on the biggest sporting stage,” he told BBC Sport.
Weston-Webb aims to be one of them.
“Surfing should be included – we’ve worked hard and tried as a surfing community to elevate the sport. Now it’s to a level it’s never been before and would be perfect to be at the Olympics.
“Surfing is not too well known in the world and that would broaden our horizons.
“This has never happened before. Everyone is eager to see where this takes us all.
“It would be the best to represent my country. I would be so honored and privileged to be one of the athletes competing in the Olympics. It would be a dream come true.”
Know your surf lingo
Barrel – Very researched. Where the wave is hollow when it breaks. Sometimes called a “tube”.
Fakie – Roll backwards on the surfboard, tail first.
Apartment – No waves. A surfer’s nightmare!
Mousse – The foam left after a wave breaks.
Clumsy – Surf with the right foot forward.
So what’s the deal with surfing?
“It’s beautiful because it’s a way, I guess, of painting art on a surfboard and a wave,” says Weston-Webb.
One person. A board. And the sea. The goal is to impress the judges with the way you ride the waves.
Barrels, fakies, tunes, talesides, 180s and 360s, you name it. There is a range of scoring maneuvers, with points based on engagement, degree of difficulty, innovation, variety, speed, power, and flow.
“It depends on what nature offers us, how we keep our strategies together and what kind of waves we catch. We want to perform for our viewers,” explains the surfer.
“Surfing attracts a younger audience. On the female side, we’re almost all in our mid-twenties. It’s really refreshing and different as a sport. It’s captivating.”
It’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm. She says it releases “toxic energy” and leaves you feeling positivity.
“The ocean is the most beautiful place and being able to catch a wave, do different maneuvers and express your passion for me is the best thing in the world.”
How will surfing work at the Olympics?
One idea, to have artificial waves that ensure consistent conditions for every surfer, seems unlikely to be realized.
“The IOC has already confirmed that the surf competition will take place on natural ocean waves and we are very happy with this decision,” said Aguerre.
“Surfing is extremely popular in Japan and the country has hosted many national and international competitions in a number of wonderful surf spots.
“The precise layout of the facilities during an Olympic surf event will be defined with the organizers in due course.”
He said the organizers would seek to create “an incredible beach party atmosphere providing unforgettable memories” to athletes, spectators, broadcasters and fans around the world. “
Life on the water up to 30 mph
Conditions can range from ankle high to waves approaching 40 feet high. Surfers can reach speeds of almost 30 mph.
“My ideal conditions would probably be 5 to 6 feet with barrels and a lefty because I’m awkward, which means my right foot is in front of my back foot facing the waves,” Weston-Webb explains.
“There’s a device that some surfers use that you can stick to your board and measure how fast you’re going, how much you turn and how high you’ve been in the air.
“We have a lot of different maneuvers in our repertoire, from a simple sharp turn where you turn the nose of your board upright and lower it, to carves where you bring the nose of your board straight up. on the whitewash and redirect.
“I do high performance surfing that goes waves 10 feet and under. There is tons of buzz when the waves hit. The electricity in the air when the waves hit is unbeatable.”
What is a surfer’s schedule?
A professional surfer is likely to be on the board for several hours most days of the week – perhaps up to three sessions of two hours each.
Factor in time spent at the gym, yoga, stretching exercises and it’s a busy schedule.
“It’s a sport that takes time and you have to be 100% dedicated to it,” Weston-Webb explains.
“You have to like it, be in good physical shape, with quick stretching movements, be balanced, and I guess the rest comes from within.”
Surf before birth
Tatiana was a child when she first went out on a board, although technically she surfed before she was even born.
“My mom was a professional bodyboarder and she rode with me in her stomach. I think she was about five months pregnant, that was the last time she could go out on the water. The surf is in. my veins.
“My dad took me on a long board when I was about two years old and I had my little buoys on my arms and it was my first time surfing,” she says.
“I got more interested in it when I was about eight because my brother Troy had started surfing, so I followed in his footsteps and fell in love with it.”
When do you reach your peak?
“As far as women’s surfing, I think our peak is something like 25, 26. For men it’s a bit older. I mean Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater are really old – I mean not really old (they’re 35 and 44) - and they work amazingly to this day. “
How to get started in surfing?
Pick a warm spot so you don’t have to start with a wetsuit.
“Where the water is clear and the sands white this is a great place to start surfing. Waist-up waves with a great surf instructor would be the way to go,” says the champion. US Open.
“Surfing is something everyone should try. It is proven to help children with cystic fibrosis make them happier. Salt water is like a natural remedy. It is a global stress reliever. ‘to be in the water.”
Obtain the equipment
A surfboard costs between £ 300 and £ 450, a combination around £ 75-150, with a pair of fins around £ 60.
“Usually for a professional surfer we have our own shaper that shapes our boards. It’s best if you’ve had a relationship with the shaper your whole life. For me my shaper is Tim Carroll and I’ve been with him I’ve been thinking ever since. nine years now, ”says Weston-Webb.
“It has been amazing to be a part of his work and to surf on his surfboards has been an honor.
“Usually it’s polyester and you have a polyester foam board with one or two layers of glass. I personalize it with colors and stickers, and all my sponsors.
“You have a different shape and size for each wave you go on, so it’s more complicated than it looks. It’s definitely an important piece of equipment.”
And finally, imagine winning a medal at the 2020 Olympics …
With several prominent golfers and tennis players absent from the Rio 2016 Olympics, often citing fears about the Zika virus, critics say the Olympics are not seen as the pinnacle of their sport.
It would seem that there are few of these worries in surfing.
“I would be more than ecstatic to stand on the podium with a gold or silver or bronze,” said Weston-Webb.
“It would definitely be a huge check on my list of things to do throughout my life.
“I would love to meet (swimmer) Michael Phelps, some of the ice skaters, gymnast Gabby Douglas is a huge inspiration to me. There are too many to name them.”
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