Surfing: the sport will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020 | Photo: Evans/ISA

August 3, 2016, was a day that surfers should never forget. For the first time in its long history, surfing was confirmed in the Olympic Games.

The ancient Olympic Games date back to the 8th century BC. They were a celebration of Zeus, the god of all gods. The first edition was run in 776 BC, in Greece.

But Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894 and subsequently ran the Modern Olympics, there have been many sports making a more or less successful debut in the event.

Pierre de Coubertin envisioned a global competition where amateur athletes could test themselves under the values of friendship, respect, and excellence.

However, things have changed, for the better and the worse. Professionalism, mixed with politics and economic interests, has taken over the Olympic spirit, and the hunt for gold, silver, and bronze medals has changed the world's most popular sports event.

The good news is that you can still witness the original spirit of the Olympic Games in the eyes of the competitors, as they prepare to give their best and represent their countries.

Surfing is about to have a unique opportunity - a once in a lifetime chance to reveal all its splendor as an outdoor sport that relies on natural elements and pure talent to shine and blossom.

World Surfing Games: diversity and gender equality are critical in the Olympic Games | Photo: Reed/ISA

Despite all the criticism, and after decades of intense lobbying, the International Surfing Association led by Fernando Aguerre, was finally able to fulfil Duke Kahanamoku's old dream.

Surfing's Olympic debut will take place in Japan, a country that is not immediately associated with perfect waves, but that may deliver fair to good conditions for a memorable showdown.

The most challenging task is to keep surfing in the Olympic movement for decades. A bit like windsurfing has done since 1984. Is that possible? For sure? What should we do to make it happen? Firstly, by following a few good practices and avoiding classic mistakes. Let's see:

1. Increase Gender Equality in Surfing

There is still a massive gap between the prize money paid to men and women and applies to the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour, Qualifying Series, and Big Wave Tour.

The world has changed. Women have the right to vote and drive for a long time, in the majority of the world's countries. So, why should they be ruled out of big wave surfing events? And why should they earn less whenever they win a contest?

The Olympic Games are walking faster than the World Surf League when it comes to promoting gender equality. If surfing doesn't change that, then Tokyo 2020 could be its first and last shot in the Olympic Games.

The same applies to the Olympic qualifying process. There are 40 spots available, and hopefully, we will see 20 men and 20 women surfing the waves of Tsurigasaki Beach.

2. Focus on Nationality Diversity: 40 Athletes, 40 Countries

Having stars and champions is not the recipe for success. The Olympic Games is all about diversity, and getting athletes from all over the globe competing against each other and representing all the nations of the world.

And today, with the advent of surf pools, river waves, and low-cost airlines, there's no reason why we can't have fantastic inland surfers from Austria or Switzerland unleashing their skills in Japan.

If, for any reason, all 40 surfers only represent the flags of the United States, Australia, and Brazil, surfing in the Olympic Games will be a one-off episode.

Riki Horikoshi: he represented Japan in the 2017 World Surfing Games | Photo: Reed/ISA

3. More Youth, Fewer Stars

Getting the stars of surfing in the Olympic Games is not necessarily a good thing. The IOC and Olympic movement itself is walking toward a rejuvenated era that could bring young athletes and younger audiences into the event.

So, although inviting seasoned veterans to join the Olympic teams, or in any way trying to make them eligible for the qualifying process may be an interesting way of securing a medal for a country, it could also be harmful to the sport in the medium and long-term.

4. Don't Let Companies Control the Show

Surf companies have already started to work to get their team athletes in the world's most important sports event. And they will be doing everything they can to ensure that their surfers reach Tokyo 2020, and their brands are shown to the world.

World Surf League and the International Surfing Association must ensure surfers will not be used as marketing tools by the surf industry. Tokyo 2020 will not be about surf companies - it will be about what surfers can do in Japanese waters.

5. Keep the Competitive Format Lean and Simple

The audience has always been a fundamental variable in the Olympic Games. IOC wants people to engage with the sport in front of them, so it's critical that non-surfers understand how athletes get their scores, and how and why they win heats.

You can't keep surfing attractive with complicated rules and long lulls between rides. WSL and ISA should work together to fine-tune details and optimize the sport's technical side.

Surfing should be a TV-friendly experience, truly oriented toward the fans on the beach, and spectators sitting on the sofa.

The push through, or punch through technique allows surfers to get past a small broken wave and reach the lineup without having to duck dive or turtle roll.

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