The Current

Surfing should be a 'rebel yell,' not an Olympic event, critic argues

Surfing will be an Olympic sport for the first time at the Summer Games in Tokyo, but not everyone agrees it should be included. Some surfers argue it's a corporate move, which betrays the counterculture at the heart of catching some waves. We hear both sides of the debate.

Surfing, karate and skateboarding among new events at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Surfing is one of several new sporting events to premiere at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But the announcement has garnered mixed reactions from the surfing community. (Zak Noyle/Red Bull Content Pool)
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Surfing will make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games, which surf journalist Chas Smith contends goes against the nature of the sport.

"I think surfing should be as far away from the Olympics as possible," he told Anna Maria Tremonti on The Current.

"Surfing should be the light on the hill of the thing that kids want to do when they want to run away from home, not the thing that they want to do like they do soccer."

He argues the rebellious, carefree artistry of surfing doesn't translate when thrust into the competitive Olympic context.

"The Olympics just adds another unnecessary level of kind of corporate blandness," the journalist said.

"It's just such an old part of surfing's DNA; it's sort of the rebel yell, right? Surfing was a rebellion against what everybody else was doing, and trying to fit it into an Olympic criteria seems like, 'Okay, now we're just trying to be like everybody else.'"

Six Canadians were in action at the 2018 ISA World Surfing Games as the drive to reach the 2020 Olympic Games began in Tahara, Japan. 2:14

Surfing will be one of several new sporting activities at the Tokyo Olympics, alongside karate, skateboarding and sport climbing.

To discuss the support and criticism surrounding surfing's role in the Olympic world, Tremonti spoke to:

  • Pete Devries, a Canadian professional surfer who supports the sport entering the Olympic realm.

  • Chas Smith, a surf journalist who says surfing doesn't belong in the Olympics.

  • Tolga Ozyurtcu, professor of kinesiology and health sciences at the University of Texas.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin, Cameron Perrier and John Chipman.

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