Surfing and skateboarding has officially been included in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. It’s a wonderful thing.
“Everybody wins,” triumphantly says International Surfing Association (ISA) President Fernando Aguerre, who’s been a huge proponent of surfing’s inclusion. “It’s not just for the athletes that will compete, but everybody that’s involved in the sport and is passionate about it.”
Looking to add more youth appeal to the 2020 Games, the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) took note of what snowboarding brought to the equation when it was included into the Winter Games in 2002. Bringing surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing to Tokyo as part of what the I.O.C. has dubbed the “urban cluster,” the goal is to make the Olympics more relevant to a new generation. Other sports being added to the program include baseball, softball and karate. Before the start of the Rio Games the I.O.C. voted and the measure passed unanimously.
“This is a game-changing moment for surfing”
Continues Aguerre. “We are already seeing increased popularity of the sport across the world and the Olympic Games will provide an incredible platform to further showcase surfing and its core values. With its unique and modern blend of sport performance, style and youth culture, Surfing will help deliver something special to the Games.”
The exact format of the surf competition remains undecided, but what is known is that 20 men and 20 women will compete in the Games, and with the blessing of the World Surf League (WSL), the talent is sure to be top-tier.
“This is a huge moment for professional surfing and further highlights surfing’s rise as a global participatory and spectator sport,” says WSL CEO Paul Speaker. “As home to the world’s best surfing, the WSL looks forward to working with the ISA to ensure that the sport is showcased in the best possible manner and with the world’s best athletes. It is awesome that our incredible athletes will have the opportunity to showcase their talents and skills to the global Olympic audience and compete for their countries.”
And to be sure, the athletes are as stoked as the organizers.
“For the sport, being accepted onto the Olympic stage is a great step forward. Surfing continues to grow and seeing it reach the Olympic level is really exciting,” says John John Florence, currently ranked second in the world. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity of representing our country if I’m fortunate enough to make the U.S. team.”
On the other hand, the skateboarding community is still trying to come to grips with how their lifestyle became an Olympic sport.
“I believe these are [misguiding] stereotypes, because every society has people who like something beyond what is considered ‘normal.’ Skateboarders and surfers lead a different lifestyle, which is unlikely to change because of the Olympics.
But its inclusion into the Olympics program will give skateboarding a new impulse and will attract new enthusiasts,” said Brazilian skater Kelvin Hoefler in an interview. “I believe this is a good thing, especially considering the fact that the committee responsible for this sport at the Olympics is comprised of skateboarders.”
Meanwhile, a group of Canadian skaters aren’t quite as pumped.
Considering that a lot of these large corporations that sponsor it still consider it a crime if someone’s skateboarding on their property…To me there’s a disconnect there.
“It’s not the soul of what skateboarding is”
Said Meag Isaacs, co-director of the Ottawa Skateboard Community Association.
It’s still another four years until surfing and skateboarding show up on the Olympic stage and there are a lot of wrinkles still to be ironed out, but one thing’s for sure, these “lifestyle” sports are hitting the mainstream in a big way.
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