Surfing in the Olympics? I have mixed thoughts about this. A part of me says it’s about time another part says it will ruin the sport and subsequently the lifestyle of surfing.
To me surfing is both a sport and a lifestyle and surfers have a special connection with the ocean; for some, it’s even a spiritual almost religious experience and they draw strength and inspiration from it. In ancient Hawaiian tradition, surfing was a privilege reserved exclusively for Hawaiian royalty or Ali’i and since the beginning surfing has been for those in tune with and in proximity to the ocean. Duke Kahanamoku’s surfing exhibition at Sydney’s Freshwater Beach December 24, 1914, is widely regarded as the event that launched surfing in Australia. The world’s love of surfing had begun, but not all surfers grew up near an ocean so once they relocated they found that connection which those before them had already known.
Now the oceans are being brought to the landlocked masses in the form of wave pools. The ability to produce the perfect wave every time endlessly anywhere in the world kind of bothers me a bit. I feel the soul of surfing is being traded for corporate profits and taking something sacred to so many and giving it those who don’t appreciate, respect, or understand the ocean can’t possibly be a good thing.
Ok, now I’m not going to bash on wave pools too hard, I can see how they could be useful. A few years back Sally Fitzgibbons went to Dubai, a place I’ve been to many times, and worked on some moves she was having difficulty with. From a practical standpoint, I can see how this can be a useful tool to learn and train. Repeatability is great when learning something new or practicing something familiar just like batting practice, same pitch, again and again, to strengthen and improve; but it should be a tool and nothing more; an instrument to be used in conjunction with an accessible break to improve your performance out in the ocean where surfing should remain.
The Olympics is a funny place, snowboarding is accepted, skateboarding is not and I must wonder why. If anything I would think skateboarding in the Olympics makes more sense than surfing because skateboarding can be done everywhere, and like snowboarding it’s enjoyed by more people than surfing and doesn’t have that deep-rooted spiritual connection to the oceans and even the Earth in the way that surfing does. You won’t hear skaters being protective of their home halfpipe, and not likely to hear many snowboarders talking about the spiritual connection they feel to their early morning sesh. Surfers, however, are very protective of their home break, virtually all surfers can tell you how glassy early morning sets can make you feel connected and one with the ocean; and it’s these things which take surfing from just a sport to a lifestyle which is why I feel the Olympics could kill the soul of surfing.
So let’s leave surfing out of the Olympics keep it in the oceans of the world in the natural environment where it belongs and stop trying to bring surfing to the masses in places it was never meant to be, like the middle of the USA, the outback in Australia, or the bush country of South Africa. I’m not going to be interested in reading about the latest surfing trip to the local wave pool where some local sensation is doing backside 540’s but has never seen an ocean.