Today, on Wednesday, August 3rd, the International Olympic Committee voted in favor of including surfing in the Tokyo Games.
So in 2020, 20 men and 20 women surfers will compete for an Olympic gold medal.
The 129th session of the International Olympic Committee confirmed the decision in Rio de Janeiro, paving the way for the event to be held at Shidashita Beach in Chiba, Japan.
Fernando Aguerre, President of the International Surfing Association (ISA), was present for the decision in Rio. Aguerre, who was unquestionably the most powerful advocate for including surfing in the Olympic Games, told Surfline:
“This was a wave I’ve paddled for 22 years. Many times I thought Olympic surfing was going to take place, but not under my presidency. But I never cared about that. If someone else was finishing this, it was because someone started it.”
The ISA consulted Surfline’s top forecasting team when it came to deciding the best beach to hold the contest. Chief Meteorologist Mark Willis said:
“After extensive research related to our proprietary 34 year historical swell database, bathymetry, local winds, logistical considerations, and interviewing key locals — Shidashita (“Shida”) was recommended to the ISA. We identified that average surf heights at Shida are in the thigh-waist-chest high range during the dates of interest (July 24-August 9). In addition, the climatological trend is for surf heights to gradually increase from July 24 to August 9, as the statistical chances of seeing typhoon swells increases. Shida is protected from the typical S winds that impact the area around the normal offshore high pressure system.”
In the session, members of the Committee also voted for inclusion of four additional sports: skateboarding, climbing, karate and baseball. The first two – and surfing, of course – follow a clear trend that the IOC has taken in recent years of including sports that are more attractive to the youth. This started in 1998 with the addition of snowboarding in Nagano, Japan.
“It’s too early to predict the overall impact, but it is certain there will be more government funding for surfing all over the world. National Olympic committees will have to recognize the national surfing federations and support them,” Aguerre said.
A clear example of this will be the United States, a country where the federal government only funds those sports that are part of the Olympic program. Going forward, surfing will receive financial support for high-performance training programs and facilities, much like it provides for mainstream sports like swimming and track and field.
There are still questions to be answered about many of the details surrounding the 2020 event, including a qualification criteria and the competition format, but Aguerre did say the International Surfing Association will take into consideration World Surf League standings in filling out the teams.
“There’s a lot of work left,” Aguerre said. “It’s like the first day you surf a new wave…you need to learn to ride it.”