Olympic Surf’s First Waves Can Be Underwhelming


ICHINOMIYA, Japan — Kolohe AndinoThe 27-year-old never had to go far to find good waves that drew people from far away.

Born and raised in San Clemente, California, the son of a professional surfer from the 1980s and early ’90s, Andino has always been a short distance from the steady break on T Street and the sporadic pumpers in the Upper and Lower Trestles.

Now that he’s arrived at the Olympics in Japan as part of the four-man United States team, all those years in his hometown may be the biggest victory of his career. Surf’s debut at the Tokyo Games promises great flair, but outstanding waves – just the kind Andino has been surfing his entire life.

“I have good luck, super good,” Andino said. “I grew up surfing on similar waves, my equipment is really good for these types of waves and my attitude towards weak waves is fine for me: When I did good things in the past the waves were bad and everyone was like, ‘Oh man,’ and whining about it. I thrive.”

On Tuesday, Olympic surfers looked for the first time Tsurigasaki Beach (sometimes called Shidashita Beach by locals) Ichinomiya, the surf competition is scheduled to start on Sunday. The venue is about 60 miles from Tokyo on the east coast of Japan.

As predicted and feared, the waves were small, breaking in waist-high waters near the shore. Forecasts are for larger waves, possibly triggered by a tropical storm forming in southern Japan early next week.

Andino isn’t bothered by the uncertainty or the possibility that the Olympic competition might have un-monumental waves. His father, Dino, a former national champion and world tour contender, shared his positive mood. Dino Andino, 52, grew up in San Clemente without much parental supervision. (“His smooth beard looks more like him, with a mop of dishwater yellow tucked under a floppy hat.” Jeff Spicoli More than Sean Penn did,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1993, a year before Kolohe was born.)

Dino sought to be the kind of father he never had by guiding Kolohe through a stellar youth career that led to the World Surf League championship tour at age 18. The two are literally close.

“If I take a stone and throw it three times, I might hit your house,” Dino said.

As for the Olympics, the father does not like to call the conditions expected in Japan an advantage for his son.

“But it should be comfortable,” he said.

Surfing has been trying to get into the Olympic program for years, and its supporters have pressed for its inclusion in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, a surf spot with world-class waves and picturesque backdrops.

Instead, the Olympic debut will be held in Japan, a country with extensive coastlines but with few stops around the world. More Jersey Shore than North Shore.

There was talk of using the rapidly developing artificial wave technology, but the Olympics decided a few years ago that it was more important to hold the competition in a natural setting.

No one is sure what to expect. Format, for 20 men and 20 women (and no more than two from any country) requires four days of competition in an eight-day window.

Surf conditions can vary from day to day and hour to hour at the best breaks in the world. bad timing in Japan, at least the giant turquoise barrels or viral videos of big wave surfing.

Future Olympics promise more dazzling. The 2024 Summer Games in Paris will hold the surfing competition in Tahiti in French Polynesia. The 2028 Olympics are expected to be in Los Angeles and 2032 in Brisbane, Australia. All these places like Rio call for brighter surf images than Japan.

Tokyo 2020 organizers hope to change that. Tsurigasaki Beach has hosted second-tier international competitions, so some Olympic athletes have experience there. So is Dino Andino.

“It would have been more spectacular if it had been in Hawaii or Tahiti, where the waves were really big and steamy,” said Dino Andino. “But very few people can relate to it because they never see these kinds of waves anywhere.”

To adjust to the expected conditions, four US Olympic surfers gathered in Southern California this month at a sort of mini-camp in the type of waves they hope to see at the Games.

Carissa Moorefour-time women’s world champion and two-time men’s world champion John John Florence From Hawaii, home to some of the biggest waves in the world. Caroline MarksHe is 19 years old, from Florida, but built a home in Southern California a few years ago.

“Carissa and John John grew up in Hawaii – stronger waves, clear water,” said US Olympic coach Brett Simpson. “It’s just a different style. But they’ve spent half their lives competing in California and around the world, and they’re at the top because they can adapt their style.”

Andino had finished in the top seven in the end-of-season WSL standings three times from 2016 to 2019, arriving at the final stop, the Pipe Masters in Hawaii, with a chance to claim the title. He finished the competition in ninth place and the season in fifth place.

But he knew by then that he was the first American to qualify for the Olympics. followed as Florence and Kelly Slater fought for the other place. Florence got it.

Then the 2020 season broke down and both Andino and Florence were injured in early 2021. Andy, high ankle sprain in march, during the first event of the year. Florence was ranked third in the world in May. injured his knee and had surgery.

Andino and Florence is just back on the water In June. Weeks later, the combination of unknown venue, expected small waves and limited number of competitors left the medal competition completely open.

“Very weird competitive surfing,” said Kolohe Andino. “You can be the best surfer, the most talked about surfer, and you go there and you only need a score and you can’t find a wave. It’s like Tom Brady has to go down the field to score and he can’t find the ball.”

On the women’s side, both Moore and Marks are strong medal contenders. Johanne Defay of France and Sally Fitzgibbons and Stephanie Gilmore of Australia, among others.

For men, Brazil Gabriel Medina and italo ferreira the last two world champions and 1-2 after entering July. was ranked. world ranking. of japan Kanoa IgarashiBorn and raised in California to Japanese parents, they are among those who may be upset. Mostly due to limited space set in 2019, five of the top 10 world-ranked surfers will not qualify for the Olympics, creating opportunities for some lesser-known names.

Andino is a true surf star upstream from Florence, about 18 months older. He set a record nine national championships as an amateur and qualified for the WSL championship tour as a junior in 2012.

He’s part of the generation that brings acrobatics to the waves with sharp cuts and big airs, a style that others, especially Brazilians, have made into championships. An approach that could be useful in the Olympics.

Yet for all his success, Andino didn’t win any championship round events by going 5v0 in the head-to-head finals. “I’m saving it for the Olympics!” he said, laughing.

Can’t think of anything better. Andino said he recorded and consumed the Olympic broadcasts.

“I’m definitely impressed with people who dedicate their lives to a sport and to that moment,” he said. “And I grew up next to you Camp PendletonThat’s why I’m very patriotic. It’s like having these worlds come together, having an explosion of entertainment on television.”

He is interested in sports he knows nothing about, such as biathlon. (“They glide so hard, then they stop and shoot. The analogy in surfing is cushioning so hard they almost vomit, then you have to stand up and ride the wave, fully focused.”) cross country skier Jessie Diggins and its groundbreaking success. Before the advent of surfing, winter and summer can name all sorts of famous and not so famous moments at the Olympics.

“It’s so sick, just being a part of it,” she said.

At the time, he was still using crutches to get around and was protecting his wrist. But soon Andino was back in the familiar water, just down the street, taking the breaks he knew as well as anyone.

She doesn’t know exactly what to expect in Japan, but she hopes her home feels so good.


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