Should Surfing Be In The Olympics?

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics may include surfing as an official event. Are we ready?

| posted on June 16, 2015
What surfing in the Olympics could look like, for better or worse. Photo:

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

Last week, Fernando Aguerre, President of the International Surfing Association, submitted a formal bid to the International Olympic Committee, trying (not for the first time) to get the sport of surfing recognized as a sanctioned event at the 2020 Tokyo Games. Aguerre has been beseeching the IOC for the last two decades with such requests, and he’s banking on artificial wave technology to finally allow surfers to go for the gold.

“Official bids were made in 2011 for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Games, but the main reason we weren’t included at the time was the lack of proper wave-making technologies,” explains Aguerre. “But now the proper wave technology for world-class or Olympic surfing competitions is available.” Wavegarden, the wave engineers responsible for the supposed creation of world-class surf destinations in land-locked areas, could be Aguerre’s biggest selling point.

New technology aside, the notion of surfing molding itself to the principles of the Olympic games raises plenty of questions. There are the issues of fairness, regulations, and well, if we really want to quantify waveriding more than we already have. To get a general consensus on the topic, we asked a handful of surfers, writers, and editors to share their opinions the last time this was in the news, in 2012. The question remains:

Should surfing be 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 Doherty, 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.

Matt Warshaw, SURFER Historian:
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, World Champ:
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.

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.

  • Mik

    I am so with Sean, Matt & Damo on this. Surfing is better than the Olympics. Surfing is nature, power, unpredictability, and freedom. Spiritual/warrior/art. (just ask Owen and Kai Ottz, eh?)

    I like the International thing about the Olympics, but surfing already has that. The WSL is more than enough competition. It’s rad, because it embraces surfing. It doesn’t attempt to manufacture it.

    Wouldn’t mind being in Japan tho. Surfing, or eating.

  • Yoda

    No thank you. No surfing in the Olympics. And considering that watching surf contests can be boring for even the most hardcore surfer, imagine how boring it will be for people who don’t really surf, especially if the waves suck!

    • Will

      There are plenty of boring sports in the Olympics and plenty that rely on the conditions. What about sailing, windsurfing etc?

    • drew68

      great point. i can only take so much of 2-3ft slop. people won’t understand the point system…even i don’t get it sometimes.

  • bulowski

    This Fernando Aguerre guy seems like a quack job to me. Listening to the way he talks about the ISA contests he makes them sound like they are a bigger deal than the ASP. Nobody gives a shit about them thats why there is barely any coverage. Who is he to petition the olympics for surfing? So he started Reef, good for him. But clearly there is some ulterior motive here. Not to mention the fact that olympic surfing in a wave pool should be blasphemy to anyone who actually surfs

    • Gabriel Fonseca

      Wrong idea from your first world hegemony…
      Time changed bro… surfing !
      Surfing is not sport and never is going will be !!!
      Whose compete in all champion leagues…has to be open for it….if you don`t fell like….JUST BE A FREE SURFER !

  • blah

    the japs dont like to do their own thing, they like to do the same thing everyone else does. so hopefully they will tay in the tokyodome and surf this shit and not clog up sunset and lanis

    • JAP

      Your racist comment makes no sense as to why surfing should be in the Olympics.

  • Joey

    I can see why people might not be a fan of the idea. But i don’t think it would damage surfing in any way, would just make it reach a wider audience, don’t think that can be bad for any sport.

    Obviously artificial waves would require a different skill set to say surfing in the WSL. It would more be about pulling off moves, like in something like snowboarding half pipe. than reading the ocean and the waves. Would still be entertaining but.

  • jason carter

    Surfing is a venue onto itself. It cannot be combined into a multi event forum such as the Olympics or the X Games.

  • Bob

    Nope! Surfing and the Olympics – oxymoron. No two waves are identical. Practicing on the exact same wave over and over again, then competing on a mirror wave of the practice waves? Not surfing. The tides, the moon and the shelves are all participants in the final product; the wave. Xerox copies from a wave machine ain’t Surfing.

    • Will

      How does sailing cope in the Olympics? The sailing racecourse is different for every boat and reading the ocean and praying for it to be kind to you, is part of the sport.

      • Jway


        because you’re all on the course at the same time. And the nature of regatta is that it is a RACE on a playing field. Although not a stationary playing field like a track, the competition and skill of racing is measurable by how well one reads conditions unfolding across the course, therefore reaching the end before the competitors. Surfing a static wave for “points” doesn’t work as well. It would be too cookie cutter to qualify as surfing!

  • Black

    Why not ?

  • Mark Gregory

    Please no. Lineups are crowded enough as it is. Put surfing in the Olympics, watch the crowds double within a year or two.

  • David Heil

    Yes, it should be a part of the Olympics, and a wave pool is absolutely not necessary. Reading the ocean and waves is a part of the sport just like reading the winds and ocean is a part of sailing.

  • Gully

    Shot Sean, #kellyisposeidon

  • Dude

    Surf will grow as a sport in the Olympics because it will be free from WSL jury. Anglo-saxons think they own the surf and surf is used to the typical anglo-saxon racism. Look at the article, they ask to seven anglo-saxon guys and one Brazilian.

    If surf goes to Olympics the anglo-saxons will see his position at the same level of the others, with the same number of surfers and no WSL jury. It will be great, everybody is fad up of the surf “business as usual” from foxtrot guys (anglo-saxons). You surf as you dance, in case of german cultures, as Anlgo-saxon, that means terribly and always the same moves. Surf needs more samba and others graceful movements from other cultures.

    Anglo-saxons… you know, art and gracefully are not your points, you just repeat and cheat, just “business as usual” and use a racist jury to try impose that you are something else than foxtrot guys supported by corrupted and racist jury. Surf need be out of that. Olympics is the solution to took surf from foxtrot mediocrity.

    • Richie

      Wow Anglo Saxon huh.. Sounds
      Like you’re the racist bro keep that crap to yourself.. I don’t care what race, culture or nationality you are if you can surf you can surf it’s as simple as that!

      • Dude

        Yeah, your liar discourse is known in Anglo-saxon countries. In USA they lie like you: “if you are USA citizen you are citizen of USA”, but you will be killed by police only because you are “nigger”. And they keep lying telling that racism do not exist in USA. You can tell the same lie about the WSL jury, but everybody see what they do.
        Anglo-saxon is a germanic culture, remember that racism is the mark of that retarded “culture” and that lack of civism is viewed by all.

  • Krkso

    WAKEUP. no one wants to talk about this- but IF ‘surfing’ gets voted into the olympics, it wont be ‘surfing’ thats accepted- it will be Boogie/ body boarding. they cant exclude the other popular sports. as a result, bodyboarding will be the common vote of ‘what surfing is’ as its first entry into the olympics. you’ll see. ps. keep your next standup 8ft bomb at sunset anonymous! thats how we roll..

  • Will

    “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.”

    Do they holding olympic sailing / windsurfing indoors in pools?

  • dwgfla

    Great idea…Bring FIFA and Olympic style corruption to competitive surfing.

  • drew68

    it’s already segregated by countries. brazilians stick together and go nuts, as do the aussies. it was never a country vs country thing until the brazilians showed their true colors. we don’t need the olympics to tell us who the best crop of surfers come from.

    also…gettting a 9.7 or a 9.4 doesn’t matter. surfing should’ve never been judged this way. good to see surfers making money competing but was never a fan of it.

  • gbroagfran

    Surfing is already too popular. Anything that promotes it should be avoided.

  • Fernando


    • Bernice

      Bernice dont know what the fuck your saying

      • Fernando

        Didnt expect you to !!

  • Senor Pescador

    me, surfing dsince ’64, moved to the best most consistent warm water waves on the planet, El Salvador, in 1994, firsts surfing there in 85, now for ES and Guatemala surfing is #2 nationwide support after futbal, but the olympics, no, it is surfing we are already INTERNACIONAL!

  • IslandLibertarian

    Surfing in the Olympics
    Upside: world class wavepool technology, wavepools then built all over the world,
    Downside: they’d have to change it from “SURFING” to “POOLING”!

    anyway, Dora is dead…………

  • Tom Schick

    Yes surfing should absolutely be added to the Olympics, and it doesn’t have to be held in a wave pool. There are plenty of sports currently in the Olympics where the playing field, the elements, and/or your opponents are constantly moving. No two waves are identical in the ASP or the WSL competitions, so what’s the difference? DO IT!

    • Lucky Moochiano

      Most countries don’t offer naTural wave sources, that’s the difference. More than that being an issue for host counries it’s an issue for countries producing the athletes. Right now the playing field for surfers is predominantly US, Hawaii (which had it’s own reference in surfing) Brazil, Australia. Then there are ransoms from Tahiti and Reunion Islamd. Pretty narrow field to be going for a world gold

  • John

    Can’t wait!!!

  • Al Orioles De Las Flotas

    This article goes into the orthography of a parking meter. Let’s all just be friends here.

  • Asha Hensleigh

    It would be great to have it as an olympic sport because then people will get to fall in love with a new sport as well as be motivated to create new advances in wave technology. But at the same time it would suck because
    1) it would take time out from more important asp competitions
    2) it would be a snip it on some obscure channel because god forbid anyone talk about something other than american football
    3) none of the pros would be able to compete (for them to compete they would have to stop getting paid)
    essentially if you want to go to the olympics be prepared to throw away all the perks of being a pro athlete, quit making your lifestyle into a handy and convenient job and only train for this single event and hope you are as big as Kelly or Alana so you aren’t forgotten.

  • Carl Jung

    There’s the surfboard, then there is scuttlebutt. If the surfboards weren’t there, how are surfers supposed to use waves fastidiously. Therefore, a remainder doesn’t make sense. To revert to surfboards only well that is art and an artifice for the jingoist. Do one thing and do it well. Unless you’re the David.

  • Alexie Fernandez

    Surfing… that’s a hard one. Since yes no waves are the same. It would be pretty awesome to watch though

  • Tiger Claw

    Rolling in caremel and running throughout the jungle sounds funner.

  • Bernice

    Bernice dont want no surfing

  • Seumas Santoro

    Why would we spoil our sport with includng it in the corrupt organization that it is the Olympics. The Olympics is everything that is wrong with sports today, from the corrupt bidding process to the corrupt judging. For years the Olympic committee was too good to even consider any of the sideways sports, surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding. That was unitl they got their ass kicked by the X-Games in viewership. Why would we now give them support when they will only support us now because it’s the only thing thats bringing viewers in and save their corrupt ass.

  • Bob Denver

    Seems to me all the surfers I encounter are always bumming about crowds and looking for uncrowded waves. All the surf travel companies advertize “uncrowded” waves first and foremost. Seems like overcrowding is the quintessential bane of the surfing world today. Most of the places that used to be fun to surf, are no longer fun anymore because they’re too crowded. So why would any surfer who seeks uncrowded waves (seemingly all except the few who get paid more when it’s more crowded) want to promote surfing to even more people? It doesn’t make sense.

  • stev59

    wave pool surfing is trivial

  • skyhart

    I think surfing could be awesome in the Olympics. But not in a wave pool. Why not hold the contest off site during the same time? Teahupoʻo pumps during August when the summer olympics are held. You could even do a contest at J-Bay. WSL/Whatever TV partnership the Olympic committee has could stream it live. Could be neat, but again, not on a wave pool.

  • Enthusiastic Kook

    I wouldn’t want to see it until there is a proper wave being produced; nothing would kill the vibe of the sport more than seeing great surfers trying to make something of nothing for the sake of a novelty medal. Having said that, this could be a great way to progress the wave pool technology.

  • Pepe Cabezas

    What a coincidence… the people that are in favour of surfing in the olympics are the ones that will somehow benefit $$$ from this move … Surfing it’s not for sale

  • Qanik

    Ask the
    snowboarders if they are happy to have snowboarding in the Olympics. A large percentage will say that it has ruined the sport. Many argue that they should look at what
    surfing is doing to save the sport.
    If you see someone failing, that thinks you’re doing well. You don’t do what they do to get

    Some advice from a land where there are thousands of snowboarder for every surfer.

    • El Kevon

      the snowboarding that happens in the olympics isn’t even the coolest snowboarding. we all know this exists where no one is watching, on big mountains. don’t worry, surfing is rad and more gapers doesn’t hurt your sport. search further dumbasses

  • Sunova Surfboards Australasia


  • cooper

    it would be mean if we had this

  • ashton


  • cooper

    ride on bro

  • ashton

    it Would be good if we had it

  • First Watch

    Eh what ever happend to Ricky fignetti
    The Rocking Fig.

  • Tyson Rose

    The last time you asked that question, wave making technology was in a very different place. Think nokia to iPhone. So the most common reason cited for surfing not being in the Olympics (the level playing field) no longer applies. Aside from Soccer and Running, surfing is the most globally participated in sport and how good would it be to give a platform for tomorrow’s greats from countries like Morocco, etc… Those opposed to it are so for their own selfish, line up protecting reasons. Bring it on.