Tokyo Olympics: Surfing’s debut labelled ‘oceanic sadomasochism’

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The chaotic conditions for surfing’s historic Olympics introduction have been labelled “oceanic sadomasochism”.

Surfing’s debut at the Games has been judged a success despite the questionable conditions. In fact, in many ways, the tricky waves over the three days of competition were seen as adding to the drama.

Brazil’s Italo Ferreira and Carrisa Moore of the United States handled the situation best to emerge with the gold medals in a challenging mess of an ocean at Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba on Tuesday.

United States surfer Kolohe Andino rides a wild wave during finals day of the Olympics surfing competitions.

Olivier Morin/AP

United States surfer Kolohe Andino rides a wild wave during finals day of the Olympics surfing competitions.

The surfing media took delight in the irony of the situation as they analysed how their sport had gone mainstream in Japan.

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“The World Surf League’s championship tour would never run in this, and in many ways today worked because of that,” Surfline.com said.

“Surf fans got their fix of oceanic sadomasochism. Olympic punters got something wild and dynamic that looked like nothing else at the Games. Running the triathlon or the kayaking in this would pose some issues.

“Surfers today had to beat the elements first, their opponents second … in a stormy, seasick lineup, grey with sideways rain. It was ugly as hell, but in many ways drop-perfect for purpose.”

Brazil's Italo Ferreira made the most of th tricky waves to win the men's gold medal.

Francisco Seco/AP

Brazil’s Italo Ferreira made the most of th tricky waves to win the men’s gold medal.

There had been much debate before the Olympics about whether surfing should make use of brilliant new wave pool technology to provide the same conditions for all competitors. In the end, the sport decided to rely on “Mother Ocean”.

That was always risky given Japan’s reputation for mostly small waves. A nearby typhoon did provide some much-needed swell for the Olympic competitions though the winds didn’t co-operate to smooth it out into better wave formations.

“… It wasn’t exactly gold medal conditions, but someone was going to win gold regardless,” Surfline.com said.

“… Italo took surfing’s first ever gold medal, not in knee-high fizzers as expected, but in double-overhead chaos surf. That’s worthy in itself.”

The writers at BeachGrit, offered something similar: “It was a sloppy, muddy mess of a lineup, I feel quite sure not what Duke Kahanamoku had in mind when he envisioned the Sport of Kings as an Olympic sport.”

Hawaii’s Kahanamoku was a five time Olympic medallist as a swimmer, including three golds at the 1912 and 1920 Games, who popularised surfing, hoping it could one day be an Olympic sport.

BeachGrit noted the words of the architect of Olympic surfing, International Surfing Association president Fernando Aguerre, who answered the argument about wave pools versus the ocean as he attended the spectacle in Japan.

“The ocean is free. It doesn’t belong to anyone. No one can buy it. Nobody can sell it. Nobody can charge you. You can be Bill Gates’ son or the janitor’s son, black or white, gay or straight, male or female, young or old, fat or skinny. Nobody cares. The ocean doesn’t care,” he said.

The Olympic surf started out small in Japan where eventual women's champion Carissa Moore still excelled.

Francisco Seco/AP

The Olympic surf started out small in Japan where eventual women’s champion Carissa Moore still excelled.

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