I have always loved the spectacle, drama and display of athletics at the Summer Olympics. While growing up I spent summers at the beach and during Olympic years would spend halcyon evenings with my family absorbed in the drama of the Olympics.
The Olympic Games are about pushing beyond ourselves in the spirit of peace and friendship.
It was sharing in the joy of the London Olympics this past summer that for the first time I fully appreciated and understood why surfing should be an Olympic sport.
While many surfers are often ambivalent about the athletic aspects of surfing, preferring to cast wave riding as a purely lifestyle or “artistic” endeavor, the fact is that surfers are athletes. Competitive surfing requires a level of fitness and athleticism that rivals any sport.
By competing in the Olympics charismatic and successful competitive surfers such as Kelly Slater, John John Florence, Gabriel Medina, Joel Parkinson, Jeremy Flores, Mick Fanning and Stephanie Gilmore would light up Olympic venues and become national and international heroes.
Don’t forget that surfing legend and pioneer Duke Kahanamoku was a five-time Olympic swimming medalist.
The Olympics would also benefit surfers in countries such as Mexico, Indonesia, Ireland, Morocco and the Dominican Republic who have only recently began to compete internationally. Their own countries would give surfer athletes more attention and resources and more importantly help to solidify the conservation of the waves and beaches that make surfing possible.
Fernando Aguerre is the president of the International Surfing Association (ISA) which is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for surfing.
“Olympic Surfing would be a strong push for a better understanding and protection of the oceans, their reefs and the beaches that border them,” said Aguerre. “That by itself would be a huge positive impact way beyond the surfing tribe.”
I couldn’t think of a better place to begin than in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Brazil is producing a wave of high-performing professional surfers who are competing at the highest levels. The Brazilian government has done a great job of supporting the Billabong Rio Pro, its stop on the ASP world tour.
“We could be part of the Rio Games in some non medal format, we could be part of the 2020, under an agreement with a current Olympic International Federation (OIF),” said Aguerre. “Or we could be there as an Olympic Federation ourselves in 2024.”
Despite the setbacks in the effort to make surfing part of the Olympic games, “I believe it’s realistic, especially considering the embracing by the IOC of many action sports such as Snowboard (that complete rejuvenated the Winter Games) and BMX,” said Aguerre. “Surfing represents a huge demographic, with millions of fans and surfers around the world.”
Surfing as an Olympic sport would help to celebrate the best elements of surfing. With the Hurley Pro coming up next week at Lower Trestles, the world's best surfers will demonstrating first-hand their competitive prowess.
Too bad they won't be receiving any Olympic medals for their efforts anytime soon.