"Could surfing in the Olympics produce a Shawn White or a Torah Bright, and who could that be?"
So here we are. Surfing made it’s debut in the Olympic games.
It probably meant a whole lot to a few people, no-one I know though, or know that I know.
Did you catch the Opening Ceremony?
No, me neither, although apparently Owen Wright looked suitably insouciant wandering out into the stadium. He would not have looked as dashing as Team USA, whose logoed up Polos took the cake for team attire.
For those who did not see, Kelly Slater did not find a way to finagle his way into the Olympic debut, which means that box will definitely not be ticked in his career.
It was left to the two injured stars Kolohe Andino and John John Florence to fly the Stars and Stripes for the men. Neither was eliminated on Day One despite JJF looking very shaky in his round one heat in one-to-three-feet “challenging” conditions.
He did not look back to full strength, but then he didn’t look the full quid in Aussie beachbreaks, either. Andino looked fresher, bringing the full complement of repertoire to junky gurglers, which looked very much like the day at D-bah when he lost the QuikPro final to Italo Ferriera in the dying seconds.
What did we expect for Japan? Junky little waves. That’s what we got for Day One, albeit with a slow improving trend late in the day.
Surprisingly, there was a lot to like.
Minus the crowds on the beach, and the relentless Tourism Propaganda on the broadcast there was a folksy, down-home feel that at times felt more like a local boardriders contest than the Olympic games. Few tents on the beach, few cats cheering on their buddies. No massive corporate super-structures.
I couldn’t find any surfing pals who had the Olympic froth on but finally got a text from a comrade in the production biz. He found the lack of “corporate fluffing” at the end of heats refreshing. No hats, no drinks, no sunglasses., just points, loose lycra shirts and a moribund sense of liberation.
I very much concur.
Of course, that may have been the vision from the Duke, although they almost smothered the broadcast by laying on the origin story in nauseating fashion, but it ain’t the way Elo and the Woz see the ‘Lympics. With the failure of the Wavepool to capture Middle America they’ve now bet the farm on the billions of Olympic viewers to blast surfing into the mainstream.
According to Elo, the exposure and attention from Tokyo is going to fund sponsorship for the QS warriors and bankroll the sport in a way never seen before. That’s paraphrasing but close enough to a word for word quote.
He’s a flim-flam man so of course so we file that under “well he would say that wouldn’t he”.
Perhaps the Medinas and Moores and Gilmores might pad out the endorsement book with some more non-endemic sponsorship but will that filter down to the Billy Stairmands or Connor O’Learys? Could surfing in the Olympics produce a Shawn White or a Torah Bright, and who could that be?
Gilmore and Fitzgibbon are near the end of their careers, as is Owen, and Julian has already announced retirement.
Carissa Moore could go nuclear.
Medina and Ferreira are both equally likely to transcend the sport. Medina’s Villain and Italo’s Joker are archetypes that can be understood by anyone. A young Slater obvs would have been the perfect candidate. Kanoa has a fairytale finish potentially in front of him and a potent mix of characteristics (First Japanese Champion etc etc) that mainstream media would gobble up.
Casting around for a potential superstar amongst the no names only New Zealand’s Ella Williams stood out.
She bubbled like a Rotorua geyser on the dark sands of Shidashita beach pre heat but unfortunately due to the lack of post-heat pressers we were denied her take on the day. The other gal with a story and a potential for the big time was Israeli chick Anat Lelior. Israeli gals who have done time in the IDF are known for being extremely bad-assed and the Tel Aviv native showed some very handy skills in the shitty beachbreak.
Sadly, knocked in the last heat of the day. At 21, probably a few more Olympics in Lelior’s future and I think she will have the lady stones for Teahupoo in ’24.
The spread between the Tour surfers and the no-names intrigued me sufficiently to last the day and as a preliminary answer to the question: Is there a roughy capable of taking an Olympic medal off a CT surfer? Italo blasted a two-point plus spread back to the field in heat one which included Tour surfer Leo Fioravanti. Typical, hyperactive, high-rep performance from Italo. Lots of waves on a semi-wedging warm water beachbreak with an air wind. Thats as close to a sure thing in professional surfing as there is.
Kanoa put a smaller sub-two point margin on Peruvian Miguel Tudela in heat two, a guy I only knew as a Pipe Stud and had no idea he could whip rotations in measly beachbreak.
Julian came last in his round three heat, looked like he has all year to my eye. Surfed incredible but couldn’t put a heat together. The other tour surfer, Kolohe Andino, was beaten by a point and change by Lucas Mesinas. Another Peruvian stud who grew up in the town that inspired Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.
Owen laid on a paper-thin winning margin on Moroccan surfer Ramzi Boukhiam. It took Medina in the next heat to restore the natural order, if we are to believe that the tour surfers are the best of the best. It was a joy to watch him get passed by German Leo Glatzer and then launch a furious volley of single manouevre tail-high airs complete with death stares and claims to retake the lead.
That two-plus point spread, I think, will be the definitive metric for determining winners and medallists. Carissa Moore maintained it, as did Fitzgibbons and Gilmore who sizzled against a thirty-six-year-old Silvana Lima using a subtle but dominant front foot to back foot shimmy to accentuate turns in improving surf.
Caz Marks put a five-point spread on her opponents.
The potential for a Blue Crush-style explosion has more potential in the women’s draw, featuring a mix of established stars, hardy campaigners drawn out of retirement and genuine surprise packets like Williams and Lelior. Japanese surfers progressed.
Wilson snuck through in his repecharge heat, JJF found a spark missing from his round one heat to advance.
The commentary was fine, less annoying that it could have been trying to educate Joe Sixpack on the difference between goofy and natural.
Very “pro-ocean” which would seem to signal the death knell of any idea that Olympic surfing will ever happen in a wave basin.
More of the same coming, except better, for Mon/Tues.
Pretty tasty heat draw. Medina/Wilson, JJF/Andino. Kanoa/Rio Waida.
Put the house on Italo.