So why worry about surfing being in the Olympics?
It provides niche sport athletes a chance to compete on the world stage. Helps corporations piggyback their way into your pocket book. Reportedly degenerates into an Olympic village hump-fest without fail.
Fernando Aguerre has been leading the push for surfing’s Olympic inclusion since the early nineties. A former rubber slipper magnate with a somewhat suspicious penchant for bow ties Aguerre is, by all reports, a true believer.
Emotionally invested in the sport, truly wanting nothing more than to see the competitive side of the slide slip its way into global consciousness. It’s a perplexing dream, that desire to pigeon hole creative release within the confines of competition.
It might be unkind to insinuate that “host” is a euphemism for bribe, but the past behavior of IOC officials makes the suspicion tough to avoid. All evidence points to the conclusion that Olympic inclusion is largely pay-to-play. Which hardly makes Aguerre a bad actor, merely a devoted adherent working within the confines of the system.
Back in 2015 our own Chas Smith wrote on The Daily Beast,
“The inherent nature of snowboarding is anti-establishment. Inclusion in that shit is counter to our deal,” my wife, Circe, tells me. Now she is an extreme-sport agent and her client, Iouri Podladtchikov, won halfpipe gold in Sochi and got a massive bonus, so she is happy.
For all their differences snowboarding and surfing share a common “anti-establishment” rhetoric. But, despite a purported emphasis on freedom and individuality it’s hard to ignore the fact that both pursuits are primarily practiced by the relatively affluent, requiring ample free time, disposable income, and a proximity to either mountains or ocean.
Neither of which boast affordable housing or low cost of living. Addicts without the ability to reap professional endorsements may live in squalor to sustain their high, but the average rider retreats each day to a life which is relatively cushy. Neither is truly anti-establishment so much as it is a chance for beneficiaries of the establishment to temporarily shed their shackles.
And so, like snowboarding, surfing’s “soul” is in no real danger. Because it doesn’t exist, beyond the minds of over-zealous devotees and the tag lines of multiple marketing campaigns.
A huge complication for potential inclusion is venue. All hype points towards a wave pool, certainly a possibility considering a purpose-built pool wouldn’t be saddled with the need for a sustainable business model. Like many past Olympic complexes a self-contained wave could be safely allowed to languish unridden once the closing ceremony is complete.
But, as yet, a truly competitive venue contained within a stagnant pond remains a pipe dream. The Wavegarden has thus far disappointed. Plagued by mechanical failures and a reality far from the groomed perfection on display in promotional propaganda. While Slater’s pool looks promising there’s been little word since the big reveal. Snowdonia also delivered footage of glassy fun perfection, but reality’s shown it’s a lumpy mess when run all day.
And it seems the IOC has its heart set on the real deal. According to Aguerre, “The IOC and Tokyo 2020 want things that are certain and the ocean is certain.”
Only it isn’t, a fact of which all surfers are keenly aware. Surfing may be popular on the beaches surrounding Tokyo, but a world class destination it is not. Barring access to, or inclination towards, a high quality self contained wave it’s a near certainty the event would be run in sub par surf. Hardly engaging, even for the most ravenous surf fan.
In the end we’re all spectators to whatever events unfold. Whether surfing is included, or not, will be decided by powerful men behind closed doors. It will depend on politicking and profits, not the approval of a group of salty misanthropes clinging to their perception of sanctity.
Which is fine. Surfing, like skateboarding, another potential newcomer, is in no way dependent upon competition. The act exists completely separate from its “governing body.” Whether the games go or not will have little effect on our lives.
If surfing gets the nod we’ll all tune in, complain about the judging, bitch about the waves. Then move on. Repeat in four years.
There’s no reason to fight it, no reason to support it. It just doesn’t matter.