Hello July 2021 – the month of surfing’s first Olympic Games! Excitement is building to cheer on Team USA’s Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks, Kolohe Andino, and John John Florence as they make Olympic history.
NBC Olympics will provide unprecedented coverage of the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, July 23, creating a full day of Olympic programming on NBC that culminates in one of the most watched nights in television: the primetime presentation of Opening Ceremony.
The Olympic surf competition window will be between July 25 and August 1. Ideally the competition will run over four days, but could be compressed into two and a half days. The official Olympic forecaster Surfline will identify dates for optimal conditions and make the call for when the first heats hit the water. See Team USA surfers' bios and Olympic surfing basics below.
HOW TO WATCHDuring the Tokyo Olympics, visit https://www.nbcolympics.com/schedulefor the most complete daily listings. These listings will look ahead two days in advance and will be updated daily throughout the Tokyo Olympics, beginning July 19.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, families and fans will not be traveling 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 Caroline's home state of Florida. SurfearNEGRA’s Olympic Watch Party Weekend will bring together local surfer girls of various levels and cultural backgrounds to surf, and learn more about how to progress in the sport and diversify the lineup.
Activities will range from Caroline sharing her experience via video message, to a tutorial on how waves are scored, and how Surfline’s Olympic forecaster will make the call on when competition starts. The multi-day event will be punctuated with watching 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.
USA Surfing hosted an 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 for lots of repetition to practice airs.
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.
Carissa and Kolohe shared what new audiences can expect from Olympic surfing in a Team USA virtual news conference moderated by USA Surfing. You can watch excerpts here.
THE DREAM TEAM
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.
Four-time World Champion Carissa Moore is going to her first Olympic Games ranked No. 1 in the world. She will be competing for her fifth world title at the World Surf League’s season finale event at California’s Lower Trestles in September 20201.
Born and raised in Honolulu, her dad taught her how to surf when she was five years old. 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. Her 2021 beach-break surfing has been impressive, landing a 9.9-point air reverse at the World Surf League’s first Australian event, which had waves similar to Japan's. “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,” Carissa said in a WSL post-heat interview.
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 (CT) at just 15 years old and had a performance so strong she was named WSL Rookie of the Year. She finished the 2019 WSL Olympic-qualifying season ranked No. 2 behind Carissa and is currently ranked No. 6.
She grew up in Melbourne Beach, Florida, in a family of eight, where she learned to surf with her brothers. Her first competitive sport was horseback barrel riding, but she made the switch to surfing at 11. 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. After winning her first USA Surfing Under 12 Championship title, she decided “I want to be the best in the world. I want to change the sport. I want to inspire young girls and I want to be world champ.”
She has the distinction of being the surfer on tour with the most nicknames based on the sport’s biggest male power surfers – Flare-oline, Carolupo, and Occoline.
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 WSL’s Olympic-qualifying season ended. A high ankle surgery kept him out of the first half of the 2021 World Surf League season, but he’s coming back to full strength and ready for surfing’s Olympic Games debut. He surfed in an Olympic “Expression Session” in front of more than 200 up-and-coming surfers June 26, putting on a show and inspiring young surfers to strive for the sport’s new big goal – the Olympic Games.
Kolohe and his wife Maddie are expecting a girl later this year. His youngest sister couldn’t pronounce Kolohe so called him “Brother” – a nickname that stuck on tour.
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
John John Florence is a two-time world champion who grew up on the North Shore of Oahu. He made an incredible comeback from injury to qualify for the Olympics in a Pipe Masters showdown with eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater. After an injury on his other knee this year, he has been putting his superhuman healing powers to work again to be in Olympic-Games form. He has been following an intense regimen of surfing, strengthening and rehab.
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 world 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.
He enjoys sailing between islands, beekeeping and tending his local organic farm. He and his two brothers Ivan and Nathan continually push the limits of what’s possible in and around the water. John founded Florence Marine X - a new outdoor apparel brand, aiming to mix adventure and responsible consumption.
If any of the two-man, two-woman Team USA surf team is injured, sick or unable to compete, Lakey Peterson and Kelly Slater can replace them. The final day for replacement is July 24 at 3 pm Japan time, prior to the IOC’s pre-Games technical meeting to confirm all the participants, judges, officials and rules of play.
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.
Lakey's mom Sue was 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."
THE OLYMPIC COMPETITION FORMAT
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. Read more about how surfing competitions are run and judged.
USA Surfing CEO Greg Cruse said the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be a “game-changing moment” for the surfing. “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.
Surfing’s first Olympic event will be held at Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba — about 60 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.
A window from July 25 to 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. 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.
Lead forecaster Kurt Korte has been poring through 40-plus years of Surfline data and trends and knows the mechanics of the waves at at the Olympic venue. A native of North Carolina, he says the surf conditions are very similar to the Outer Banks.
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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