After Sunday’s closing ceremony, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics have officially become old news. As we all begin to anticipate the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, every surfer is wondering when surfing will become an Olympic event. And if they’re not, they should be.
Surfing is unquestionably a sport that belongs in the Olympics. Just the thought of King Kelly, Michel Bourez “The Spartan,” or Mick “White Lightning” Fanning competing for Olympic Gold is something of Greek mythological proportions. And there is no way that major surf corporations wouldn’t jump on board (no pun intended) if it meant serious primetime exposure. So, what gives? It seems that the most significant obstacle to surfing becoming an Olympic sport has always been logistics. Surfing, unlike current summer Olympic sports, requires two key elements: the ocean, and surf. Obvious, I know — surf-ing requires surf. But because this requirement dramatically limits the range of potential Olympic host cities, surfing simply has never been considered for the Olympics.
What if there was a way to curb the location, location, location demands of our sport, though, if only for the sake of being able to present it to the world and watch our heroes compete for their respective countries? Wave pools seem to be the only potential for propelling surfing to the world stage.
A few weeks ago, Webber Wave Pools announced that its first contracted wave pool would be built in Queensland Australia, and is slated to begin construction later this year. According to Greg Webber, the site will open in September of 2015. If this is indeed the case, it could represent a dramatic step in the right direction for wave pool surfing in future Olympic games, because it demonstrates the feasibility of constructing a wave pool in a relatively short amount of time.
Still, one major uncertainty would be the likelihood of the host city to fund such a venture, but given the cost of building venues and infrastructure alone for the 2012 London Olympics cost upwards of 5 billion British Pounds, funding doesn’t appear to be an end-all be-all for Olympic surfing.
One of the most exciting prospects of opening wave pool surfing to the world is that it would set the stage for the participation of land-locked countries that otherwise would not be able to engage in surfing. The only question is this: how would today’s top competitive surfers react to wave pool surfing becoming the de facto representation of surfing at the Olympic games?
Would CT’ers choose to participate in recognition of it being the only way to showcase their talents on such an immense scale, or would they scoff and let wave poolers compete for gold? Personally, even if some refrain from calling wave pool surfing actual surfing, I would like to see the best most competitive surfers in an Olympic format, because I think they deserve to be there just as much as any other athlete. At this point, whether you’re for them or against them, wave pools seem to be surfing’s only opportunity to become an Olympic sport.