Surfing and The 2020 Olympics

In the early hours of tomorrow morning, (at 3am GMT) the president of the ISA will be informed if surfing has made it into the final recommended selection for the 2020 Olympic games, due to be held in Japan. If surfing makes it through this critical stage, it will be one step closer to cementing its place in the 2020 games, with the final call being made next August.

Whether or not surfing deserves its place in the games has been a long and hotly debated issue, with loud voices on each side of the argument. Until recent years Surfings geographical specificity as well as the unreliable nature of the playing field have been the main arguments keeping it in the periphery of Olympic consideration. However as I’m sure you’ve seen, these ‘issues’ have recently been tackled by mankind’s constant desire to develop and build as well as emulate the parts of the natural world we enjoy the most- or in less verbose terms- with the building of wave pools.

Surfing in a wave pool, on an Olympic stage, would however be a pretty far cry from the origins of our sport and culture and indeed from how most currently experience it, with many considering the levelling of the playing field to totally undermine all that surfing is about. Various commentators have expressed concerns that it would increase the commercialisation of the sport, which they feel would rob it further of any authenticity that remains within it. Others are worried the rules and regs enforced by the Olympics, particularly those relating to testing for recreational drugs, would leave little room for the counter-cultural elements of surfing, which many fans and surfers still cherish.

However there are some who look upon its inclusion with more optimism. There is talk that the presenting of surfing on such a big stage would generate a resurgence in people other than surfers buying big surf brands again, providing a much needed cash injection into the industry, which would in turn allow brands to put more money back into sponsoring surfers and events, making films and funding mags, something which almost all agree would be a major positive.

Amongst a sea of divergent opinions, there is however a consensus that should the committee come back with an ‘AYE’ tomorrow and then again next August, competitive Surfing could be a bout to change for ever, quite possibly in ways we never could have foreseen.

Cover photo by Luke Gartside