“You are unprepared. You are endangering people around you… if you continue to do what you’re doing, you’re gonna die.
A couple of days back on their podcast The Grit the noted surf broadcaster David Lee Scales and his loudmouth hoodlum sidekick Charlie Smith spoke eloquently of the folly of Paris 2024 Olympic qualifiers being held at lightweight venues Huntington Beach and El Salvador.
Wrote Chas, “The sheer absurdity of using those waves as a gauntlet for the ‘Left of Doom’ is, according to David Lee Scales, ‘an act of wilful negligence bordering on sociopathy.”
Now, following the episode, fear is growing that surfers from minnow countries for whom honour is everything will, when faced with ten-foot Teahupoo, choose the death-or-glory option over prudence and an early exit from the event.
The last athlete to be killed during the Olympics was Portugal’s first marathon entrant, Francisco Lazaro, who died of heat exhaustion at the thirty-click mark during the 1912 Games.
A couple of stiffs during training, bike and luge, in the nineteen sixties and eleven Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorist at the 1972 Munich Games, but, for our purposes, we ain’t counting ‘em.
The 2024 Games, which runs July 27-29, 2024, will feature 48 surfers, 24 male and 24 female athletes, eight more compared to Tokyo 2020.
As a sort of measure of the wave’s heaviness, at this year’s Teahupoo event the reigning world surfing champion, Filipe Toledo, reprised his “brave act of cowardice” from 2015 (Toledo didn’t take off on a wave in a heat against countryman Italo Ferreira) when he appeared to choke in perfect eight-foot waves, holding priority for fifteen-odd minutes while Slater and Hedge exchanged beneath him.
In contrast, the big-wave surfer Maya Gabeira almost died at Teahupoo in 2011, on a day deemed too big by the greatest surfer of all time, Kelly Slater.
In a DM to Gabeira, Slater wrote,
“You are unprepared. You are endangering people around you when they have to go in and rescue in such scenarios. I think if you continue to do what you’re doing, you’re gonna die. So I highly suggest you stop.”
Advice that might be equally given to less storied competitors if a swell does arrive on those fixed dates in July.
Whatever happens, very good for television.