Surfing in the Olympic Games is a far away swell

May 8, 2012 | Surfing
Rio de Janeiro: the perfect stage for the Olympic surfing test

Almost but not quite. Close, but no cigar. Surfing is the most popular board sports in the world with over 20 million active enthusiasts, yet, until 2020, we aren’t seeing it in the Olympic Games.

It started as an ancient spiritual activity and now is one of the most relevant water sports in the planet with an industry worth 10 billion dollars (8 billion euros). Today, it's quite easy to get waves almost everywhere.

There are 1,6 million kilometres (2,5 million miles) of coastline to find waves in the entire world. All the 30 editions of the Summer Olympic Games held since 1896 were organized in countries with coastline.

Surfing has never made a guest appearance at the Olympic Games. Sports like badminton, squash, softball, golf, curling, canoe/kayak, BMX, table tennis, tug of war, ballooning, bowling, Finnish baseball, glima, gliding, korfball, savate and water skiing have already or will have a chance of showcasing in the Olympic Games.

Is there a problem with surfing? Yes and no. Surfing is not considered a sailing sport, so it would be hard to get it into the ISAF competition, along with windsurfing/kiteboarding, laser and other sailing classes.

As a water sport, surfing would require beaches with regular swell and quality wave conditions. Alternatively, the modern artificial wave pools or surf parks would ensure there were waves to be ridden and judged.

The International Surfing Association, led by Fernando Aguerre, has been trying to convince the International Olympic Committee that surfing is the perfect sport for the world event. The truth is that smiles, talks and handshakes are not enough. So, what's missing?

The surf industry has never been fully committed with the Olympic surfing dream. Quiksilver, Rip Curl, Nike, Billabong, O'Neill and other global surf brands could do a lot more for the inclusion of surfing in the Olympic movement, but nothing happens.

The 2016 Olympic Games set for Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, were the ultimate stage for surfing to shine in the podium of medals. The beaches of Copacabana had everything but, instead, kiteboarding gets a ticket to the Olympic dream. Who's to blame?

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