Surfers and hometown fans are ready for the sport’s historic moment
(April 13, 2021) – T minus 100 days until the Opening Ceremony of surfing’s first Olympic Games July 23, 2021 in Tokyo. Excitement is building to cheer on Team USA’s Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks, John John Florence and Kolohe Andino as they make Olympic history.
After a year delay, surfers are stoked to join athletes and fans from around the world to celebrate the creativity, diversity and endless possibilities of athletes doing what they love on the world’s largest sporting stage. (see bios and Olympic surfing basics below).
Team USA’s Carissa Moore and Kolohe Andino shared what new audiences can expect from Olympic surfing in a Team USA virtual news conference moderated by USA Surfing while the surfers were in quarantine in Australia. You can watch excerpts here.
Carissa is in form for Japan’s beach break conditions, clinching the world No. 1 spot after landing a 9.9-point air reverse at the World Surf League’s first Australian event. “I’m trying to be more innovative and push maneuvers above the lip. [Airs] are something I’d like to bring into my heats more and hopefully at the Olympics,” Moore said in a WSL post-heat interview.
Airs are expected to be a big part of surfing at the Olympic surf venue in Japan. Four-time world champ Carissa Moore took part in USA Surfing’s Olympic Training Camp at BSR Surf Resort wave pool in Waco, Texas. BSR’s technology can reproduce Japan’s wave conditions, giving surfers a prime opportunity to test equipment and sharpen aerial maneuvers.
Team USA Olympic surf coach Brett Simpson said the conditions at surfing’s Olympic venue and the compressed competitive format are new for the team, “but they are conditions Carissa, Caroline, John and Kolohe can crush with the right support and preparation.”
Most competitions were cancelled in 2020, but coaches and surfers worked to simulate the pressure in mock heats and other drills. Unlike other sports, surfing’s training facility – the ocean – remained open throughout the pandemic.
Olympic surfing watch parties
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, spectators will not be travelling to the Games in Japan, but American surf fans are creating cheering sections from coast to coast and in Hawaii to make sure surfing’s first Olympic surf team feels the love thousands of miles away in Japan.
For example, Florida nonprofit SurfearNEGRA will host an Olympic Watch Party celebration weekend for the next generation of surfer girls in Olympian Caroline Mark’s home state of Florida. SurfearNEGRA’s Olympic Watch Party Weekend will bring together local surfer girls of various levels and cultural backgrounds to partake in an interactive surfing experience.
Activities will range from Caroline Marks sharing her experience via video message to an Olympic basics course on competitive surf scoring. The multi day event will be punctuated with the Olympic Opening Ceremony on NBC.
“We look forward to rallying Florida’s robust surf community around this historic event and inspiring more girls of diverse backgrounds to engage in one of the best sports in the world.”
SurfearNEGRA Founder, GiGi Lucas said.
What to watch for in Japan
USA Surfing CEO Greg Cruse said the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be a “game-changing moment” for the sport’s athletes. “To compete on the Olympic stage and win a gold medal will represent a pinnacle of achievement for surf athletes with more national and worldwide attention than surfing has ever known," Cruse said.
Both coasts, the mainland and Hawaii are represented by Kolohe Andino (California), Caroline Marks (Florida), Carissa Moore and John John Florence (Hawaii). Eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater and Lakey Peterson, who finished the qualifying season third in the world are Team USA's alternates. See bios below.
Carissa Moore is a four-time World Champion from Honolulu. She surfs with remarkable power and finesse and is known for her work to help young girls develop confidence and pursue their dreams. Carissa started racking up wins at National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) junior surf competitions and top spots at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships, where she helped Hawaii win a team victory. In all, she clinched a record 11 NSSA amateur titles, and at age 16 became the youngest champion at a Triple Crown of Surfing event. At age 18, she became the youngest person – male or female – to win a surfing world title and was the first woman to compete in the Triple Crown of Surfing, Hawaii’s most prestigious contest series featuring the world’s best male surfers. Carissa was a star student at Punahou High (the same high school President Barack Obama attended) where she met her husband, Luke Untermann. She took four years of Japanese in high school and is looking forward to sharpening her use of the language during the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Caroline Marks made history as the youngest surfer (man or woman) to qualify for the World Surf League Championship Tour at just 15 years old and had a performance so strong she was named WSL Rookie of the Year. She grew up in Melbourne Beach, Fla., where she learned to surf with her brothers when she was 8 years old. Before going on the WSL CT, she racked up multiple USA Surfing championship wins, including winning the gold medal in the 2016 ISA World Junior Surfing Championships Girls Under 16 division.
Kolohe Andino was the first American surfer to qualify for Team USA’s Olympic surf team with performances so strong he earned the position in October before the season ended. Growing up in San Clemente with a pro surfer dad, Kolohe won seven USA Surfing Champion titles and nine National Scholastic Surfing Association championships – a record for boys under 18. One of the most entertaining surfers to watch, Kolohe has an aggressive, progressive style. Many of the local groms look up to Kolohe, who is quick to encourage and support the up-and-coming talent.
John John Florence is a two-time world champion who grew up on the North Shore of Oahu. John made an incredible comeback from injury to gain provisional Olympic qualification. Despite missing more than half the season recovering from ACL surgery, he held onto one of two top U.S. spots, after returning to compete in the WSL's final event of the season - the Pipe Masters. John started surfing when he was just two years old. At the age of 13, John became the youngest person to compete in the Triple Crown of Surfing. Just six years later he would win his first title and in 2017 clinched his second. John’s surfing is in a league of its own; he effortlessly pulls off freakish airs and maneuvers with athleticism and style.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Ranked No. 3 in the world, Lakey Peterson is Team USA’s Olympic surf team alternate – a remarkable outcome only in America where Nos. 1 and 2 Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks edged her out to make surfing’s first Olympic team. Showing the same resilience her national champion swimmer mom did when she missed going to the boycotted 1989 Moscow Olympics, she’s continues to train hard to be ready in case someone on the team gets injured and support the team.
Growing up in Santa Barbara, Calif., Peterson played multiple sports and started focusing on surfing when she was 11. She is known for her full-throttle speed, aerial maneuvers and rise through the ranks at a young age. At age 14, Lakey completed the first-ever aerial maneuver in National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) women’s 18 and under competition to win the title. She consistently made the podium at USA Surfing championships with a hard-charging style and vicious turns that have only become stronger on tour.
She is the daughter of a national swimming champion whose Olympic dream was denied when the U.S. boycotted the 1989 Moscow Olympics.
The greatest surfer of all time grew up on the East Coast and still has a home in Florida. Racking up 11 World Titles, 55 career victories, and holding the distinction of youngest and oldest World Champion in men’s history, his surfing continues to inspire and impress. The World Surf League's bio states: "He ushered in a new era of high-performance surfing when he arrived on the scene in 1990, incorporating intentional fin releases and a mix of aerial moves."
Team USA’s two-man, two-woman team will join a field of 40 surfers representing countries around the world, who will compete for surfing's first Olympic medals. The size of each country’s team is between one and four surfers, who qualified based on 2019 World Surf League standings and performances at International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games and Pan American Games. The ISA released the format for surfing in the Olympic Games, with proposed first-round matchups between Team USA’s John John Florence and Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi, and American Kolohe Andino and South African Jordy Smith.
Surfing’s first Olympic event will be held at Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba — about 40 minutes outside Tokyo. Surfline – the official forecaster for the Olympic Games, has captured more than 40-years of weather and wave data. Forecasters say the dates for the Olympic Games coincide with the start of Typhoon season, which can generate solid swell.
Surfers have a powerful connection to the ocean and naturally feel a responsibility for keeping oceans clean and healthy. USA Surfing partnered with the Wyland Foundation to use the Olympic moment to promote clean oceans. The partnership features an online auction of two surfboards painted by Wyland to commemorate surfing’s first Olympic Games and co-branded marine life art featured on shirts, hats and jewelry. Auction funds and a percentage of merchandise sales will support surf and clean ocean education initiatives.
With the help of Surfline, leaders from the International Surfing Association and International Olympic Committee will identify the dates with the best conditions to run the Olympic surfing games. A window from July 25 — August 1 is being held to determine the best days to hold the surf competition. The contest could be compressed into two-and-a-half days, but ideally will run over four days.
In celebration of the 100-days benchmark, there will be a special pre-Olympics opportunity for fans and supporters to become members of the “2020ne USA Surfing Booster Club” as part of a USA Surfing supporting membership. Those who join will between April 14 and Closing Ceremonies will receive a limited edition USA Surfing Tokyo 2020ne patch. Go to USA Surfing's membership page to learn more.
Media contact: becky (at) usasurfing (dot) org
About USA Surfing
USA Surfing is the National Governing Body for surfing in the United States, recognized by the International Surfing Association (ISA) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC). USA Surfing’s mission is to promote and grow the sport of surfing and support United States athletes of all backgrounds to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American and Parapan American competition. USA Surfing will oversee and support America’s Olympic team as surfing makes its debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and surfing and stand-up paddleboarding athletes compete in the 2019 Pan American Games.
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