In Surf’s Olympic Debut, Routine Waves and No Regrets


ICHINOMIYA, Japan — Like most surfers, Australian Stephanie Gilmore did not expect to see surfing at the Olympics.

Of course, he is no stranger to the global stage. Like many of the sport’s debutants at the Olympics, he has traveled the world for years chasing waves and world championships. He won seven of them. But she’s not even 33, she said, so exhausted she’s immune to wondering.

Just last week, she said she met the world’s No. 1 tennis player, spent time with Norwegian volleyball players, and walked through the opening ceremony, which she had only seen on television until this year.

“Obviously I’m trying to be as serious as I can be,” Gilmore said on Sunday, the first day of the surf competition at the Games. “But coming to the Olympics is a very enjoyable experience in one’s life.”

Surfing is spending the Games at Tsurigasaki Beach, known to locals as Shida, 60 miles from Tokyo, a long way from most other Olympic action.

The surrounding surf town is lined with restaurants with names like Hula Cafe. It’s not uncommon to see locals cruising along the oceanfront road with a shortboard under one arm.

But at these Olympics, it’s nearly impossible for anyone outside of the Olympic bubble to catch a glimpse of the action. The Olympic campground eclipses the surrounding area, and the surf break is located between two piers, a natural barrier that prevents local surfers from boarding the Olympic waters and keeping even the most curious fans at a safe distance.

On Sunday morning, the first of eight days blocked for Olympic competition, the waves were deemed surfable—not necessarily good, but good enough. organizers to kick off the event on time, the first tour will start at 7am

In the hours that followed, crew members and venue staff were the only ones adorning the beach. When the Australian team – Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Julian Wilson and Owen Wright – came in from the heat, they shouted, “Aussie! Australian! Australian!” American surfers Caroline Marks, Carissa Moore, John John Florence and Kolohe Andino a wave descended, the US contingent supporting them stood up and rang bells.

“I couldn’t have asked for better energy from our team,” said four-time world champion Moore. “It still feels like another competition. I’m wearing a jersey, there are Jet Skis in the water, you have the priority board and the time is counting down.”

Marks surfed in particularly strong heat and easily won his round with 13.40 points. Florence followed him into the water, but finished his first lap in third place and did not automatically advance to lap three. He needed to get on his nerves, he said, and he soon did—he picked up enough speed to land a few air returns and win the heat by 12.77 points.

Brazil’s Gabriel Medina won the final qualifiers of the first round of the men’s competition, but dismissed the mediocre waves as “small and hard”.

“It’s not the conditions you want to surf in to start the Olympics, but that’s what happens,” he said. He said he hopes he can put on a better spectacle on Monday, when waves caused by a tropical storm are expected to get better.

Most surfers said the key to success this week would be simple: Instead of moaning about how they wanted the waves to be bigger, they had to approach Tsurigasaki surfing with a new strategy.

“I spent the whole month in California before that, and there are waves like this in California,” Gilmore said.


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