SURF­ING OLYMPICS

Af­ter sev­eral at­tempts to be ac­cepted into the Olympic move­ment, in 2015 the sport of surf­ing was unan­i­mously passed by all 90 mem­bers of the IOC to be in­cluded in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

New Zealand Surfing - - Surfing Olympics -

For cen­turies the pin­na­cle of sport­ing com­pe­ti­tion has been the Olympics, but surf­ing’s in­clu­sion didn’t go down well with every­one, with many pur­suits be­liev­ing surf­ing had no place as an Olympic sport, yet un­like re­cent newly in­ducted sports such as golf and ten­nis, many of the top pro­file ath­letes wel­comed and em­braced its ac­cep­tance ac­knowl­edg­ing that they would be hon­oured to par­tic­i­pate if they were se­lected. Even go­ing back to mid last cen­tury, the god fa­ther of surf­ing as we know it and an Olympic Gold medal­list swim­mer him­self, Hawai­ian Duke Ka­hanamoku had a dream and made a push for surf­ing to be in­cluded as an Olympic sport, al­most 80 years on the Duke’s dream had be­come re­al­ity.

Since that an­nounce­ment there have been many var­ied and twisted ru­mours of how the surfers will be se­lected and how the com­pe­ti­tion run in Tokyo. Many of the worlds su­per pow­ers of surf­ing have em­braced this Olympic chance and have im­ple­mented high per­for­mance Olympic Surf­ing pro­grammes in aim of grab­bing those il­lus­tri­ous Olympic medals.

So here’s what we know so far and where NZ sits in the puz­zle: Qual­i­fi­ca­tion:

Af­ter much spec­u­la­tion it was an­nounced on 20th De­cem­ber 2017, that the WSL and ISA (the IOC recog­nised fed­er­a­tion) have come to an agree­ment on how qual­i­fi­ca­tion would com­mence.

In prin­ci­ple, the agree­ment will see up to 18 of the 40 places at the Games re­served for WSL Cham­pi­onship Tour (CT) surfers (10 men and eight women), then the re­main­ing 22 will come from a mix be­tween the ISA and the 2019 Pan-Am Games in Lima, and wild­cards for the host na­tion.

It’s con­fus­ing, we know. To sim­plify, here’s how the qual­i­fi­ca­tion hi­er­ar­chy will likely play out, pend­ing ap­proval by the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee (which is set for Fe­bru­ary 2018):

Men

10 top-ranked surfers on the 2019 CT (sea­son end 2019)

4 fi­nal­ists from the 2019 World Surf­ing Games

4 fi­nal­ists from the 2020 World Surf­ing Games

1 win­ner of the 2019 Pan Amer­i­can Games in Lima

1 slot re­served for Japan

Women

8 top-ranked surfers on the 2019 CT (sea­son end 2019)

5 fi­nal­ists from the 2019 World Surf­ing Games

5 fi­nal­ists from the 2020 World Surf­ing Games

1 win­ner of the 2019 Pan Amer­i­can Games in Lima

1 slot re­served for Japan

In to­tal, that’s 20 men and 20 women. But here’s the catch: each coun­try only gets two surfers per coun­try, per di­vi­sion (eg: two Austal­ian men, and two Austal­ian women). Once those slots have been filled, the next avail­able coun­try on the qual­i­fi­ca­tion or­der will be cho­sen. What this means for NZ is to have a cer­tain chance of qual­i­fy­ing a sin­gle po­si­tion in each di­vi­sion male/fe­male we ba­si­cally need to fin­ish ranked in the top 4 at ei­ther one of the ISA World Ti­tles

in 2019/2020. Over the last ten years the high­est po­si­tion we have placed at the ISA Worlds was a 2nd by Paige and a 3rd and 4th by Ella, with Billy fin­ish­ing with a 9th. So, while this process may seem daunt­ing we have pre­vi­ously ob­tained re­sults ca­pa­ble of qual­i­fy­ing. And with many of the su­per­power coun­tries such as USA, Brazil, Aus­tralia and France all qual­i­fy­ing their spots via the Cham­pi­onship Tour then qual­i­fi­ca­tion could go as low as the top 10 at the ISA Champs.

Let’s lay down our dream sce­nario, if Paige was to qual­ify a spot via the World Tour and then also fin­ish placed high enough to qual­ify a sec­ond spot via the ISA, that would open up two spots for any of our women surfers, al­though Paige in­di­vid­ual qual­i­fied this place. Who those po­si­tions would then go to would be de­ter­mined by a mix of Surf­ing NZ and the New Zealand Olympic Com­mit­tee de­ci­sion. The New Zealand Olympic Com­mit­tee ul­ti­mately has fi­nal say, and even if NZ are to qual­ify spots, un­less those surfers are seen to be medal hopes or have the po­ten­tial to fin­ish in a top po­si­tion they may not se­lect them. Many other sports are dealt this blow even af­ter their ath­letes qual­ify, NZ has al­ways had great suc­cess in wind­surf­ing but the NZOC has de­nied se­lec­tion in re­cent games as they felt those ath­letes weren’t ranked high enough to pos­si­bly medal.

With the lack of in­for­ma­tion from both the WSL and ISA, the NZOC were un­able to give a clear state­ment as to if NZ qual­i­fies whether we will in­deed send ath­letes but did con­firm that NZOC Se­lec­tion Pol­icy for Tokyo 2020 sets the se­lec­tion stan­dard for the Games and the stan­dard for Tokyo 2020 in­di­vid­ual ath­letes (which in­cludes Surfers) is that they must be ca­pa­ble of a top 16 plac­ing at the Games, with po­ten­tial to place in the top 8.

In pre­vi­ous years the ISA Worlds have clashed with World Qual­i­fy­ing and Pro Ju­nior Con­tests of im­por­tance there­fore our top surfers haven’t been able to com­pete, so it is hoped the WSL have built this fac­tor into their own cal­en­dar, al­low­ing not only ours but other coun­tries top surfers to com­pete.

The Venue:

On an­nounce­ment of surf­ing be­ing ac­cepted into the Olympics it was an­nounced that the com­pe­ti­tion would take place in the ocean and would be held at Shi­dashita Beach, or “Shida,” lo­cated about 40 miles out­side of Tokyo in Chiba. The waves at Shida fea­ture a punchy beach­break, which oc­ca­sion­ally bar­rels, and a se­ries of jet­ties on the beach help fun­nel sand move­ment to create con­sis­tent sand­bars. Lead­ing up to the of­fi­cial surf­ing de­ci­sion, the ISA con­sulted Sur­fline’s fore­cast team to se­lect which lo­ca­tion would be best fit for com­pe­ti­tion. Upon re­view­ing decades of data, Chief Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Mark Willis and his team set­tled upon Shida. Willis said: “We iden­ti­fied that av­er­age surf heights at Shida are in the thigh-waist-chest high range dur­ing the dates of in­ter­est”. The wait­ing pe­riod would take on the full 16 days of the Olympic sched­ule choos­ing the best two full days to run the com­pe­ti­tion.

Since that an­nounce­ment, talk of where the event will be held has gone quiet! Upon read­ing the above quote of ‘surf in the range of thigh-chest high’ is hardly the type of surf that is go­ing to be­come en­gag­ing to a non-surf­ing au­di­ence. Let’s face it, only a year ago wave pools were seen as a joke for com­pet­i­tive surf­ing and now we are about to have a World Tour event in one which at the push of a but­ton can de­liver waves on time in con­sis­tent in­ter­vals, the type that we have al­ways dreamt of. This wave pool tech­nol­ogy has come leaps and bounds in a very short pe­riod and in two years’ time who knows what they could pro­duce, and at the end of the day wave pools are the per­fect fit for Olympic broad­cast sched­ul­ing. The one thing that has con­stantly held back surf­ing from global ex­po­sure is the in­con­sis­tent na­ture of our plat­form we per­form on. Now imag­ine how much of a dis­as­ter it would be if the waves at Shida were at best in­con­sis­tent on­shore 1 foot­ers. There­fore, with this sub­ject go­ing quiet one could only as­sume that these po­ten­tial ru­mours of a wave pool be­ing built in Tokyo have some sub­stance to them.

Our Kiwi Surfers:

As men­tioned, if NZ are to qual­ify, we will qual­ify a spot not a cer­tain surfer, there­fore po­ten­tially a team of surfers who qual­ify by way of the ISA may not end up be­ing se­lected. In the case that NZ qual­ify, Surf­ing NZ has cur­rent se­lec­tion cri­te­ria which will be up­dated to en­com­pass a spe­cific Olympic se­lec­tion cri­te­rion where they will nom­i­nate two surfers to the NZOC and they will ul­ti­mately de­ter­mine if NZ should be in­cluded. For ex­am­ple, NZ has a great rep­u­ta­tion in row­ing, and while Mahe Drys­dale, our most suc­cess­ful rower, is the guy that qual­i­fies NZ for a spot in 2020, he may not nec­es­sar­ily be the rower who gets that spot. Row­ing NZ, through their pro­cesses along with the NZOC, may in fact see an­other ath­lete as more suited to the com­pe­ti­tion.

It is pretty ob­vi­ous when you look at the list of our most suc­cess­ful and tal­ented surfers who may end up be­ing in the mix but Tokyo is 2 1/2 years away and any­thing could hap­pen be­tween now and then which is why we need to fo­cus on the de­vel­op­ment of a squad and not a sin­gle ath­lete.

Saffi Vette-Saffi is only young but she has al­ready de­vel­oped a sin­gle turn that can ri­val most of the best fe­male surfers on the planet, once she de­velop sand starts putting combo s to­gether we will start to see great things from this young lady, two...

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