Surfing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: schedule, how to watch and more

After being postponed for almost a year, the Tokyo Olympics are there, and surfing is finally making its Olympic debut.

In 2016, the Olympic Committee voted unanimously add surfing to the Olympics, which means that from July 25 to August 1, we can all watch some of the world’s best professional rippers carve the waters off Chiba, Japan. While each wave is certainly fun to watch, seeing and understanding how Olympic surfing works does take a bit of education. Here’s everything you need to know about who is competing, how scoring works, and when you need to tune in to watch Olympic surf for the very first time.

How did surfing become an Olympic sport?

To say that surfing has come a long way to the Olympics would be an understatement. According to Hawaii Public RadioThe International Surfing Association has been lobbying the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the inclusion of the sport since 1995. (The publication also notes that surfing icon Duke Kahanamok — a triple gold medalist swimming – tried surfing at the Stockholm Summer Games in 1912.)

But, just because people wanted to surfing at the Games didn’t mean it met their qualifying criteria. Although the IOC recognized the International Surfing Association (ISA) as an international surfing and bodyboarding federation in 1995, it would not have considered the sport for Sydney in 2000, or later in Beijing in 2008, because the ISA had not yet reached 75 national levels. governing bodies, Surfer today Explain.

Finally, in 2015, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee had to propose the addition of sport to the IOC to say yes.

“We want to bring sport to young people … youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and which will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games”, Thomas Bach, IOC President, noted of the decision.

Which countries are in competition?

A total of 20 men and 20 women will compete for the gold, silver and bronze medals. Each competing country is represented by a maximum of two surfers per nation and per gender. Brazil, United States, Australia, France, Japan, South Africa, Germany, Peru, Chile, Indonesia, Portugal, New Zealand, Morocco, l Argentina, Costa Rica and Ecuador all have at least one male or female competing.

How does Olympic surf scoring work?

Surf scoring has always been both a bit complicated and controversial, simply because much of it is subjective. However, these two factors are not new to Olympic judges, given the complexity and controversy of scoring in sports such as gymnastic and figure skating.

According to Official Olympic Games page, the first round will feature four athletes per series, and the second round will feature five. From the third round, the competition turns into an individual format.

“During the heats, each surfer will have 30 minutes to catch as many waves as possible and receive a score of 0 to 10 for each wave ridden,” explain the Olympics. “However, only the best two waves from each surfer are calculated in their final score.”

Each wave will be scored by a panel of “experienced judges” using the five-point system:

1. Commitment and difficulty: “This factor is the most important and judges the types, degree of difficulty and risk of movements performed,” says the Olympics. And, because “all waves are different”, athletes will also be judged and earn points for “the high risk of the wave they have chosen and that surfer’s commitment to maximize potential scoring opportunities on each wave. wave ”.

2. Innovation and evolution: In competition, surfers are encouraged to go beyond the basics of wave catching and a few cut-backs. The Olympics note that “the judges will also award points to those who push the limits of modern surfing with progressive movements such as aerial variations or the back slide.”

3. Variety: The jury will also be looking for surfers who add a bit of spice to the waves and those who “incorporate many different types of maneuver into their surf”.

4. Combination: This point will be judged on how “a surfer can seamlessly connect high scoring maneuvers” together. This includes turns, antennas, and barrels (if Mother Nature provides waves big enough for such a thing, of course).

5. Speed, power and flow: “This age-old mantra of surfing refers to the style of an athlete on a wave, but also the subtle technical elements that separate good surfers from great ones,” says the Olympics. It all comes down to how and how fast a surfer can react to a wave, how he maintains his speed and how much “oomph” he adds to each move.

Surfers to watch

For the men, it will probably be Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira, both Brazilian. While American surfers John John Florence and Kolohe Andino are the favorites, both are coming out of injuries that could affect their performances. Another interesting surfer to watch is Australian Julian Wilson, who announced his plans to retire professional surfing after the Olympics.

On the women’s side, Carissa Moore is a favorite. As a quadruple world champion, she is a pretty tough competitor to beat. Australia’s Stephanie Gilmore is also another surfer who always comes out with her best, and Johanne Defay from France is ranked number two on the World Tour in 2021, making her another one to bet on.

What about Kelly Slater?

As the world’s most famous and best decorated surfer, you’d think Kelly Slater would be at the first surfing Olympics. However, Slater lost his World Surf League qualifying spot to John John Florence, after coming in third. He’s standing as a substitute after Florence had ACL surgery a few months ago, but with each passing day, Slater’s chances of making it to the Games are getting slimmer and thinner.

Get to know the wave at Tsurigasaki beach

When the IOC announced the addition of surfing to the Games, fans quickly began to wonder if the competition would take place in a wave pool or on a beach. While the wave pool would give every competitor a level playing field, it goes against the heart of the sport, which relies on a surfer’s ability to read the waves. Eventually, it was announced that the competition would take place at Tsurigasaki Beach.

Although the beach has hosted competitions in the past, surf publications don’t seem particularly excited about the choice. Of the wave, Wave length wrote: “The venue is home to some decidedly average quality waves and the timing is a bit early for the typhoon season. Expect beach peaks of 1 to 3 feet in warm waters, which are no different from well-known event venues such as Huntington Beach. Inertia was a bit nicer, describing it as “decidedly less than good”.

While the pros are also skeptical, they seem to be getting on board (no pun intended). Gilmore said Reuters, “I know Japan has some great beaches and they really want to show off surfing in its most authentic form … Once I think about it that way, I love the idea of ​​surfing in it. ocean.”

The Olympic surf program

The Tokyo Olympics surf competition will run from July 25 to July 28, with reserve days scheduled from July 29 to August 1, just in case the weather and the ocean don’t cooperate. Men and women must compete on the same wave throughout the day. Check the full schedule and times for each round on the The Tokyo Olympics page here.

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