Surfing in the Olympics

The Olympics are fast approaching, should surfing be part of the Games?

| posted on July 27, 2011

What surfing in the Olympics could look like, for better or worse. Photo:

Editors Note: In My Opinion is an occasional op-ed where surfers, writers, and editors share their viewpoints on topical issues in surfing. Join the conversation by commenting below.

Should surfing being an Olympic sport?

Taylor Knox, Veteran World Tour Surfer:
Surfing should be an Olympic Sport for sure. We surf against the best surfers from countries around the world on the ASP. It would be unreal competing alongside Kelly Slater against friends like Mick Fanning, while representing the U.S.A. Now more then ever there are many countries with talented surfers. Signs point to continuing in this direction. It would be hard to have the event when the hosting city is land locked, but with the way technology is going it seems we will be able to bring world class waves and surfing anywhere.

Sean Dougherty, SURFER Senior Writer:
No, no and err…no. Olympic sports are all anchored around fairness and level playing fields, but the ocean doesn’t offer that. The only way surfing would ever be considered an Olympic sport is if it was held in wave pools, and if it was held in wave pools then I wouldn’t consider it surfing. The fact that no two waves are ever the same is what makes surfing, surfing. It’s not designed to be fair. The ocean isn’t fair, and unless you’re Kelly the ocean really doesn’t give a shit about you.

Fernando Aguerre, ISA President:
If surfing were to be included in the Olympics, I don’t think it would change the sport at all. Look at snowboarding for a future view of what surfing could look like if it were a part of the Olympics. I don’t believe surfing needs to change anything to become part of the Games. I believe it’s just a matter of time until it happens. We’re very close. The Duke asked for surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics as early as 1920, but the biggest drawback is the fact that waves don’t exist in many of the Games’ host cities. Hence, manmade waves will be needed. The IOC wants to see solid world-class waves, so surfing’s future in the Olympic Games could be assured. I believe this technology will be available at a reasonable cost in the very near future.

Taylor Clark, current USA Surf Team Member:
I think it would be sick, because surfing is a sport and they pretty much have every sport in the Olympics. But it all depends on what happens in the water, so I think it would be a gamble to put it in the Olympics, because who knows what could happen with the waves—just like any other contest. But they don’t have anything like surfing in the Olympics, so I think it would be sick.

Matt Warshaw, SURFER Senior Writter:
Thought I was done being pissed off over the 100-year mainstreaming of this wonderful sport. Thought I was old enough, and far away enough from Orange County, to not much care. But the thought of surfing in the Olympics brings a familiar dab of bile to my throat. Can we just all agree to pretend, for a little while longer, that surfing is a unique thing to do? That this difference has in fact always been it’s strength?

Gabriel Medina, currently No.5 on the One World Rankings:
Yes, I think surfing should be included, and I would absolutely love to surf in the Olympics. It would be such a great honor to represent my country. Plus, it would be a sick competition with the Brazilians teaming together against the other counties. And of course we would win. Haha! Hopefully it will happen.

Steve Hawk, Former SURFER Editor:
This came up during the Atlanta Olympics in ‘96 when I was working at SURFER. I wrote a piece about how if they’d held a live surfing event during the games that summer, the best wave they would have found within striking distance would have been the Typhoon Lagoon wave pool in Orlando. Is that the face of surfing we want to show to the world? I’m not down on contests. Competitive surfing has had many transcendent moments. Take what just happened in Fiji or Teahupoo or some of those legendary Pipe Masters events. If they can arrange it so that it’s at a world-class venue with a live webcast, that might not be so terrible. But the idea of packaging it under all the pomp of the Olympics makes me cringe. Surfing is at its worst when people are trying to exploit it, and this push for the Olympics feels like it’s being driven by the exploiters. And I fear we’ll all end up being embarrassed if it happens. If it were up to a vote, I’d say no for sure.

Rainos Hayes, Hawaii Surf Team Coach:
I would love to see surfing included in the Olympics. The athletic skill required to compete at that level should qualify surfing. I hope that when we make it to the Olympics, Hawaii can continue to compete independently, as we’re the birthplace of surfing. It would be a huge honor to coach at an event of that magnitude.

Dave Prodan, ASP International Media Manager:
Personally, I’m a big fan of the Olympics and enjoy any activity that pits nations against one another in friendly competition. However, I am torn on whether or not surfing is an appropriate fit for it. I absolutely think the athleticism performed by surfers qualifies it as a worthy activity, but the lack of a static playing field would be a challenge to hosting a worthy event in some nations and a virtual impossibility in others.

Damien Hobgood, Veteran World Tour Surfer:
This may sound like a selfish or a bad thing, but I’ve never really been that into seeing surfing in the Olympics. I love the Olympics, but for some reason seeing surfing as part of that hasn’t ever really been something that I’ve felt very strongly about. I’m sure that there are a lot of kids out there who dream about surfing in the Olympics, and I think that’s great, but it’s not something I’m particularly passionate about. I love the idea of representing my country, but I feel like I do that anyway right now.

  • W

    Nahhh. It’s impossible. The environment in which we surf (i.e. the ocean) is too dynamic. Even sports like gymnastics and figure skating that subjectively judged happen in fields/environments that are consistent for each competitor. Surfing doesn’t offer that. Why bother?!! Olympics are a fun time to acknowledge other sports that don’t normally get the time of day or have their culture/ethic gobbled up, like swimming or archery…….or pretty much all olympics sports.

  • terry bailey

    why not??? surfing sold out long ago thanks to the Bronzed Aussies.. the ASP and every other surf clothing company with stores in Moscow and Beijing. good breaks in populated areas are crowded and the vibe isn’t even close to what it was… and the out of the way paradise secret spots have surf camps for the high rollers and even then you got to deal with crowds… and pay for the honor. i am sure the companies wouldn’t mind…. they would sell more tee-shirts…. and really…… isn’t that what its all about???

  • dgb

    Couldn’t happen. Even gymnastics and ice skating realize that technical difficult tricks alone, without flow/style and a consideration to the whole ride, don’t cut it. Surfing judging hasn’t advanced that far yet. One trick, 10 points and the gold medal Olympic champion is …anyone of the usual suspects who got lucky that instant.

  • Lane

    It would bring a lot more publicity, more interest, meaning more crowds (more kooks)

  • Daniel Carneiro

    Nooo… cuz besides the importants facts mentioned here like the dificult about judging and dynamicity of the ocean, the olimpic games are an global event and surfing is a sport practiced only in coastal countries. So its impossible to happen in my opinion!

  • Greg Webber

    Wave pools, if good enough, will probably take competing out of the ocean and place it inside a controlled environment where surfing contests will be valid for once, and that will be great for surfing. The random nature of the ocean becomes a negative when you compete in the ocean, under a defined set of criteria, where the losing surfer loses, invariably because he just didn’t get the better waves. Surfing events in nature shouldn’t need a winner. They should be totally free of criteria and systems and scores and time limits, and should instead be a spectacle. Sure film the crap out of it and put it online for the brands that fund the events, but why need a contest winner? It will be obvious from the one ride that eclipses all.

  • M

    I find it hard to disagree with luminaries such as Knox & Medina, but the judging is already subjective enough. Are you prepared to be subjected to IOC judges who know nothing about the surfing?

  • Marcus

    Why would you want to be a part of an over political event that brings all the boutiique sports together once every four years. Stay unique, and stay on the surf coast. As for snowboarding, the great Terje didn’t bother going to the Olympics that would have been an easy gold for him.

  • Yoda

    No way. Surfing is not a sport you retarded surf jocks.

  • Dirt

    Hell no!!! Surfing is not a competition sport, The only thing the ASP ct is good for is showcasing the best surfers in the world, the results it produces cannot be taken seriously. Greg Webbers comment was spot on.

  • Center Line

    Should surfing be apart of the Olympics? Is surfing an art, a sport, or just something people like to do? Or what should surfing be? It would be sad if a large group of people decided to categorize surfing as a sport. It’s limiting and it eliminates the aspect of self discovery for those who are new to surfing or are just non-surfing fans.

    Of course there are always pluses and minuses. Team orientated, money, more exposure to the rest of the world, progression and non-progression at the same time (The level of surfing has definately gone up over the years, but surfing as a sport seems scientific and things just get boring when people all look the same….From contests to people learning how to do things from the latest surf flick and imitating who their favorite surfer is.),…… and more crowded line-ups.

    How ever people percieve surfing really doesn’t matter if you have been surfing for most of your life because you’re not going to stop doing it if you like to do it.
    I’m sure most of us have regular jobs, have families, or whatnot and don’t make money from surfing, and are never going to surf that wavepool that tubes perfectly in a circle around the little island.
    I don’t want to think about how boring it would be to watch people ride the same exact wave. People learn to do crazy stuff on skateboards, bikes, motorcycles and other things that are amazing, but end up being boring to watch. I never thought watching or seeing a photo of an air reverses and rodeo flips and stuff would be so boring, but you got to take the good with the bad. Good surfing never gets old and people can get excited about someone trimming down the line or doing a cutback if it’s done well. surf or die..

  • Center Line

    Tandem surfing as an Olypic sport would be more appropriate

  • Surfing

    No, that’s impossible.. I think It couldn’t happen.

  • a

    surfing sucks. dont try it.

  • TAB Textor

    TAB Textor REEF ROAD tm, Owner

    Build it and then they will come? For the fans or for the industry? Save the Multi Million dollar Stadiums then advertising money and human effort and put it into equipment and teaching for kids. Fill their hearts with treasured life experiences that we as surfers grew up with. Remember your first real road trip away from home??? Most fans cannot appreciate without experiencing surfing unless they have tried it long enoughto get the magic hook that we all got. The same energy and resources ($Millions) for Olympic productions would allow hundreds of thousands of kids to literally ride the equivalent of millions of waves P E R E V E N T (Compare to ASP STATS EX/GOOD/AVG POOR waves and scores). The fleeting spectator moments of the Olympics could never compete with a wiser use of human and natural resources as would be experienced through the amount of joy and hope for using the clean energy of the ocean that we do. Never.

  • mark nortness surfer/former judge

    Matt Warsaw said it best for me . No. And on a practical side they would have to build a state of the art wave pool at every location,hmmmmm ! Yes surfing should be in the olympics.

  • corey

    umm first of all surfing is the shit u dumbass and people like you say that stuff just because you cant surf so why dont you go bag on some outher sport like nascar

  • Andy

    Yes, it should be in the olympics as it is a sport played by millions all over the world.
    Snowboarding did not change for the worse when it became part of the olympics and neither would surfing. People who think it will are just being stubborn and living in fear of change.
    Now days with looking to provide the wave quality and set up required it is truly possible. The wave pools around now (even WADI Wavepark) are not good enough in regards to wave quality, ride duration, wave frequency, wave height and seating for the public… Soon Webber wave pools will do it.
    Snowboarding and snow skiing did not change for the worse when lifts were installed in resorts as people still hiked the back country. Wavepools will provide the same situation.. If you do not want to use a wavepool then you do not have to as the ocean will still be available for you…
    People need to open up and stop being so negative and resistant to change.

  • Ronnie

    Yes it should.

    Dude, wouldn’t be more fun for you to be watching surfing on TV right now in great waves instead of watching the US Open in BS waves?

    The idea is to make it happen in amazing pool waves. It’s gonna be awesome!

  • the jerk

    no Corey, you are the dumbass.

    and also a marketer’s dream.
    carry on.

  • Brianj94

    Absolutely surfing should be included in the summer events! i believe the only reason it hasnt been included is because the technology for continuous waves hasnt been invented but i believe thats also changing, i wouldnt be surprised to see that its not added as a sport in the next two or three games too come. With new big wave technology the IOC can bring paradise to all landlocked cities around the globe opening up new opportunities, and how about wake boarding, how far is that away? a man can only dream!

  • Bogus Surfer

    Some food for thought:

    Summer Olympics: Conditions are equal for every competitor and waves are crap in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Winter Olympics: Competitors already deal with changing and often unfair conditions.

    Jamaica has a bobsled team, why couldn’t Mongolia have a surf team?

  • vic manato

    i’m watching the wind surfing event at the London 2012 on tv right now!

  • Ben

    No, surf is not a asport is a religion. Why not making competitions of happiness then?

  • Hassan Ingram

    The chance for surfers to make as much money as most sportsmen and women, yes, in the Olympics ? no

  • shaner

    I love how Medina claims that “of course Brazil would win”. Typical Brazilian machismo….and “Brazil would team together against all the other countries”…Ya – just like the Brazilians do at every surf break they show up at.

    In my opinion, Medina wouldn’t make the Olympic cut anyway…cause he’d have his ass handed to him by De Sousa.

  • Andrew K

    No. Every sport in the Olympics are conducted as Sean Dougherty mentions in conditions that can be replicated from venue to venue. That’s why records hold or are broken. It’s antithetical to the idea of surfing being a dynamic sport.

    Snowboarding is a bad example because you only compete in halfpipe, boarder cross, and slalom. There is no big mountain riding as the conditions and venues vary too much.

    The idea of the Olympics is that these sports can be done in any of these countries, and the fact is that surfing can’t. It is inherently different and interesting because of that. Golf is like that, but I don’t think it’ll be viewed well when it’s tried out in the 2016 Olympics.

  • nick brooks

    Surfing would be more exciting & thrilling, than many sports, already in the olympics.

  • Mike of 9’s

    No way. Skateboarding, yes. Surfing, no

  • http://google Ariel González

    One: it goes against the very nature of surfing erasing all the complementary skills of the original he’e nalu: water mastery, paddling, positioning, wave selection, entrance strategies and creativity. A good way to kill the natural scenario and the essence of surfing!! Two: it goes against the very olimpic spirit their promoters say pursuing! Instead of taking the athlete higher, faster and stronger it will mock endurance, strength, stamina and boldness. No olimpic sport REDUCE the skills! Imagine Usain Bolt running 25 mts dash or Koby dunking in a kids playground or Messi playing baby soccer . I think SUP and paddling races should be included along IF surfing is included, ’cause there you have real olimpic efforts and MEASURABLE! Three: It’s all about money. Corpòrations are promoting this idea with the argument of “democratization”, when it’s the very opposite, only developed countries will have the luxury of spending water reserves whistl others die of thirst. Duke, being an olimpian, NEVER dreamed his waves in a pool but in the giants bluebirds of Waikiki. It’s very sad that, like many other sports, the future of surfing is in CEOS’ hands. Real surfing attach man to nature. Pool surfing will break this connection. Look for more info in my blogspot : ludusaquaticus.blogspot. Aloha!

  • ginz

    fuck no

  • Micus

    No, I’m with Sean Dougherty! Surfing is a dynamic sport, that is what keeps us coming back for more! And that is also why we have the X-Games.

  • Oleo Pacqman

    For wave machine “surf riding” can be considered as it is man created and centered for some glory and honor to man made Olympics. For wave riding on the high sea oceans, it is a Big Negative. Creator God waves are totally spiritual inspiring gifts and blessings from the Creator and not man made, unlike the Olympics.

  • neilt

    really the olympics? please retire already and let others shine. you haven/t made a heat all year!!!!

  • Center Line

    What would be the judging criteria for waves ridden in the Olympics?
    Would it continue to evolve from 3 to the beach to Spin to Win.
    I get the feeling it would be like watching a sponging contest in 1 foot blown out beachbreak slop. From a stand up surfers standpoint, it’s great watching bodyboarders pull into mental mutating tubes, but anything else is just lame.
    Surfing in the Olympics seems like it would be a bunch of overly amped up competitors trying to do the same thing as the other guy, except better. Isn’t that what Olympic athletes do already. Where’s the variety. A different hand pose for each air reverse. The idea seems very narrow.

    Taylor Knox: Pretend like your a 12 year old grom again. Would you get a better feeling about surfing and a desire to surf from watching a bunch of glossy surfers do sic tweaked out air flicks or watching Curren do his thing in Wave Warriors II or to watching him in real life on your first trip to Rincon.

  • detrain

    Surfers think they are too cool to be in the Olympics. Whatever….then don’t be.

  • Isaias Rodelo

    definately should be a part of the olympics. i beleive that there is no other sport closer to natural than riding waves and not just that but ripping them apart like any pro surfer out there and people who actually are passionate should have an opportunity in life to express themselves more than all ready do

  • TAB Textor

    Administrator please remove my above comments.

    Reason? I say I don’t think surfing should be in the Olympics. But type in my name in google and it says I think it should to the left. My name and date but you have to get to the comments to see it. So by commenting I do not give you permission or attribution because I do not want to attribute to Olympic Surfing endeavors.

  • chris b

    [“Center Line
    July 28, 2012 7:40 am

    Tandem surfing as an Olypic sport would be more appropriate”]

    Couldn’t agree more. As someone said, surfing as a summer sport would suck in 90% of the countries with an ocean. It would harken back to the 80’s with no minimum surf height required to hold with guys in neon waiving their arms trying to “sell it” in 2′ slop.

    They have fake rivers for the kayak events, why not just make fake waves then you could hold “surfing” events such as stand-up 2′ arm waving, boogie boarding, SUPing, and wave ski contests?

    I think ginz said it right…fuck no.