What you need to know for the sport’s debut in summer games – Santa Cruz Sentinel


Forty surfers are set to make Olympic history, making their debut in the sport of waves for the first time in front of millions of viewers.

More than most of the 41 other summer game sports, surfers will have the added drama of relying on Mother Nature to bring a wave of action to athletes in the water.

The unpredictability of the ocean can be a factor that makes or breaks a podium for the athletes, who are already at Tsurigasaki Beach in Japan warming up in the waters where the surfing competition is set to begin this weekend.

In Southern California, surfing is a popular hobby and sport, but even the most seasoned surfers may need a guide to find out what to expect at the Tokyo games.

Here is a little Olympic surf 101 to motivate you for the beginnings of the sport:

Surfer Anat Lelior of Israel rides a wave during a workout on Tsurigasaki Beach at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Ichinomiya, Japan on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 (AP Photo / David Goldman )

Will there be surfing?

One of the most important things for surfers will be whether or not nature will provide waves to actually ride.

The beach on which the event takes place, Tsurigasaki Beach about 45 miles southeast of the Olympic Stadium, is known to be small and gutsless at this time of year – and there have been concerns before. the event that there would be dull waves to showcase the surfers’ skills.

The event is now close enough that forecasters of Surfline.com, a Huntington Beach operation that is the event’s official forecaster, sees the potential for a tropical cyclone on the horizon for opening weekend.

“Believe it or not, we have a typhoon” President of the International Surf Association Fernando Aguerre said while standing on the sand at the competition site Thursday morning. “The only thing we couldn’t plan was the surf, the waves. The waves are coming. It’s incredible.”

Swell brought by the tropical system is expected to invade the Japanese coast on Sunday July 25, starting in the 3-4 foot range and reaching 5-7 feet by the end of the day.

The solid head-to-ceiling surf is expected to continue on Monday, dropping to around 4 feet of surf, with the occasional 5 feet on Tuesday, and over size filling up in the afternoon. Another favorable tropical system could bring more waves for the second half of next week, a wave buffet which is good news for surfers ready to fight for gold.

Ideally, the waves will have enough oomph for athletes to carve big on the faces of the wave or head skyward to do progressive aerials over the lip of the wave, or even create hollow waves. to allow surfers to fit into barrels. Forecasters also keep a close watch on the winds, as even if there is swell, bad weather can create choppy and messy conditions that could force them to wait for a better day.

The event requires a maximum of four days of questionable surfing, but could be squeezed into two and a half days if necessary.

Who to watch?

Will the US team, with two Hawaiian surfers and two from San Clemente, have a chance to win gold? Or will a Brazilian storm surge to win the medals? Or maybe one of the underdogs will upset the best in the world.

Much like the US Open of Surfing held in Huntington Beach, the 40 surfers are made up of some of the world’s best surfers who have won international titles and others who are beginners eager to make a name for themselves.

For the men’s competition, Kolohe Andino of the US San Clemente team and John John Florence of Hawaii will have plenty of home fans to cheer them on. Both are recovering from recent injuries that could impact their surfing if not fully healed.

Surfer Kolohe Andino, of San Clemente, is one of two male surfers competing for the U.S. team in Japan at the upcoming Olympics. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News / SCNG)

No one will dispute the strength of the Brazilian team with two world champions, Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira, who are some of the best aerials in professional surfing with the ability to fly high above the waves, but are also strong in their power. surf.

The Japan squad will be one to watch, not just because Kanoa Igarashi is a beloved Huntington Beach native. Igarashi, whose parents are from Japan, is a rock star in Japan and will have the support of locals, as will his teammate Hiroto Ohhara, who like Igarashi won the US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach.

Surfer Kanoa Igarashi, a Huntington Beach surfer competing for Japan, comes out of the water after a workout on Tsurigasaki Beach, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, in Ichinomiya, Chiba Prefecture, at the east of Tokyo on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 (AP Photo / David Goldman)

On the women’s side, Carissa Moore of Hawaii, USA Surfing, and Caroline Marks, a transplant recipient from Florida who has lived in San Clemente for several years, are powerful surfers; Moore with four world championships under her belt and Marks winning several World Tour events in just a few short years, she has been ranked among the best in the world.

Australians Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons will be a team to watch, Gilmore winning more world titles – a total of seven – than any other surfer in history.

But here’s the thing about the Olympics: anyone can win gold at home.

Add to that the unpredictability of the ocean, known to flatten out when a score is needed most or deliver waves to a surfer in need of a big score, all surfers have a fighting chance.

What is the program ?

The event has an 8 day window for contests to run on the best days of this period.

An early schedule calls for rounds 1 and 2 for men and women starting on Saturday, July 24 at 3:00 p.m. PDT (Sunday morning in Japan), with the third round resuming on Sunday, July 25.

Based on the first schedule listed on NBC’s website, which will be covering all rounds live, it looks like the surfing will continue until the day of the finals on July 28.

This timeline could change as the event approaches and the surf forecast becomes clearer. The competition takes place on the best days of the waiting period, which runs until August 1.

It’s unclear what kind of live TV coverage the surf will receive, but NBC will be the station to check out locally for shows and highlights. To watch live online or to see schedule changes as the surf contest approaches, visit nbcolympics.com/surfing.

What is the format?

Even seasoned surf fans may need an introduction to the format, which will be different from traditional World Surf League events.

For the Olympics, there will be six 30-minute rounds, which will feature a mix of five and four riders and individual rounds to reduce the field to 20 men and 20 women.

Here is the breakdown of the International Surfing Association, the governing body of Olympic surfing:

The first round, with four surfers in five rounds, is non-eliminatory. The top two surfers advance to Round 3, while the last two surfers advance to Round 2, the first knockout round.

In round 2 there will be two rounds with five riders each, while the top three will advance and the bottom two will be eliminated.

Two surfers will compete in the third round, with the surfer who ranks first going through the medium. The second ranked surfer is eliminated.

The quarter-finals will again see the surfers face off against each other, the best surfer progressing and the second surfer eliminated. The same format will be played in the semi-finals, only the last two surfers will go to the match for the bronze medal, where the winner will take the third step of the podium.

For the finals, a two-man round will decide the gold medal winner, with the second surfer taking the silver medal.

How are they judged?

Scores are based on wave size and the combination of major maneuvers performed – with judging criteria based on “speed, power and flow”.

For each scoring race, the highest and lowest scores of five judges are discarded and the surfer receives the average of the other three. The two best scoring waves are added together to become a surfer’s heat total.

This is where Mother Nature can play an important role in the outcome of the competition. In surfing, some heats might see a plethora of waves for surfers to choose from and score on, while in other heats the ocean flattens out and offers fewer opportunities to catch a wave, leaving a surfer looking out. the horizon wishing for a wave as the clock counts down.

Surfers wear different colored jerseys to help the judges distinguish between surfers. A color-coded electronic card tells surfers which swimsuit color is allowed to take the wave of their choice first.

Want to join a watch party? Nomad’s Cantina, located at 102 Avenida Cabrillo in San Clemente, plans to air the surf contest on Saturday, July 24 if the contests start that day.

Discover 10 things to know about Olympic surfing at isasurf.org.

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