The Inertia for Good Editor
Teahupo'o. Photo: WSL

Teahupo’o. Photo: WSL

The Inertia

In response to a massive wave of public opposition in recent weeks, the International Surfing Association, the governing body of Olympic surfing, provided a new proposal Tuesday that would avoid constructing a new aluminum judges’ tower at Teahupo’o. With that, the ISA took its first notable stance publicly opposing a plan to construct a tower many worry could cause irreparable damage to the reef.

“I can’t see any rationale for causing such immense damage to a sensitive coral reef habitat simply to facilitate a single Olympic event, especially when a functional tower already exists,” Dr. John Burns of The MEGA Lab told The Inertia last week. There are a multitude of solutions (judge from a boat, use drones and live video feed, use existing tower, etc.) that would all be more cost-effective and not cause such harm to the local environment.”

“The ISA will not support the construction of the new aluminum judges’ tower at Teahupo’o,” the association announced Tuesday.“With the decision by the French Polynesian Government not to allow the use of the old (wooden) judging structure for safety and legal reasons, and the likelihood that any new construction on the reef will have an impact on the natural environment as well as lack the support of the local population, we have been asked to consider alternative technical solutions for judging the Olympic Surfing competition.”

The association offered a two-part alternate proposal they believe would still allow for “fair and accurate” Olympic competition which relies heavily on judges viewing competition through video feeds, temporary infrastructure on land for necessities like cameras, and even the use of a boat in the channel with a clear line of sight to the lineup.

“Option A” in the ISA’s proposal calls for a judges’ tower on land with a reduced camera platform which would be built on top of existing footings. The judges would either view the competition from a platform on land with a clear view of the wave or they’d be placed in a closed room viewing the competition on several monitors. Cameras would be placed on elevated platforms on land as well as platforms positioned on the reef, which appears to make use of the existing wooden infrastructure used for WSL competitions.

“Option B” calls for no cameras on the reef at all. It acknowledges that existing footings might be excluded entirely, in which case broadcasts would rely on 100x zoom lenses from land. They would be placed in temporary boom cranes and scissor lifts that can mimic the angle achieved from a tower on the reef thanks to the extreme zoom capabilities. While it might sound like a cheap, low-quality option on the surface, it’s actually the same method used for broadcasting most professional golf tournaments and even other Olympic broadcasts. Meanwhile, water angles could be provided by boats in the channel and remote drones near the lineup.

The ISA offered that all of its suggested solutions would be subject to feasibility analysis by the different stakeholders involved.

The ISA’s full proposal can be viewed here.  


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