Surfing

'Small and funky' waves a concern ahead of surfing's long-awaited Olympic debut

Surfing's long-awaited Olympics debut in Japan will showcase its talented athletes and enviable beach lifestyle to an audience of millions, many of whom will be watching the sport for the first time.

Tsurigasaki Beach venue known for small, short waves that lack power

As surfing's long-awaited Olympics debut nears, competitors, like seven-times world champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia, are worried about the spectacle and whether using artificial wave pool technology might have been a better bet for the Tokyo Games. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

Surfing's long-awaited Olympics debut in Japan will showcase its talented athletes and enviable beach lifestyle to an audience of millions, many of whom will be watching the sport for the first time.

But typical summer waves at the venue of Tsurigasaki Beach – small, short and lacking in power – have left some competitors and fans wondering about the spectacle and whether using artificial wave pool technology might have been a better bet for the Tokyo Games.

Waves pools, using a variety of mechanical systems to create almost identical and perfect surf on demand, have sprung up around the world in recent years. They now feature on surfing's professional tour and have introduced the sport to regions far from the coast.

Seven-times world champion Stephanie Gilmore said she liked the idea of a wave pool for the Olympics, where competition will only come around every four years and not everyone will get an equal chance to ride the best waves in their heats.

"So, a wave pool made sense that we get the same opportunity as each other and it comes down to your performance on the wave and that's it," the Australian told Reuters.

Fernando Aguerre, president of governing body the International Surfing Association, said back in 2015 when surfing was invited to apply for the Tokyo Olympics, it was told by organizers the competition must be held in the ocean.

"That was okay with us, because at that time, most of the technologies that exist today didn't exist, so it was in the Stone Age for artificial wave surfing," he told Reuters.

Aguerre said researching years of waves and winds suggested Tsurigasaki Beach, also known as Shidashita Beach, would have at least some days of decent surf during the eight-day competition window available during the Olympics.

"The place is known for being exposed to the right swells for this time of the year," he said. "It's very consistent, it has hosted international competitions, Japanese national competitions, so we are very confident."

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