OCEANSIDE, Calif. (AP) — As one of the new sports added to the program for 2020 Tokyo Olympics, surfing is arguably the most glamorous and is sure to bring a new dimension as the IOC seeks a younger audience.
Surfing’s push to be included in the Olympics has a long history but got a big boost in 2014 when the IOC realized the need to add more youthful, vibrant sports to the Olympic program.
A total of 20 men and 20 women will qualify for Tokyo with a maximum of two athletes per gender per country.
The four-man heat method will be used. Four athletes will compete at a time, with the best two proceeding to the next round.
The length of a heat depends on the condition of the waves and lasts 20 to 25 minutes. In that time, an athlete can ride 10 to 12 waves, with their two highest scores counting.
The United States, Australia and Brazil are expected to be the favorites in Tokyo.
Two members of the US team, Caroline Marks and Kolohe Andino, are currently training in their home base of San Clemente, California.
Marks grew up Florida where she learned to surf with her brothers when she was just eight years old.
In 2014, she made the move to San Clemente’s world-class waves and year-round surf to improve her performance.
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 finished the year ranked No. 8 and was named WSL Rookie of the Year.
Andino grew up in San Clemente with a pro surfer dad.
He won seven USA Surfing Champion titles and nine National Scholastic Surfing Association championships – a record for boys under 18.
Many of the local kids look up to Kolohe, now 25, who is quick to encourage and support the up-and-coming talent.
Currently ranked No. 1 in the world, he is hungry for a world title and chance to compete in the 2020 Olympics.
The big question for Tokyo will be the quality of the waves.
While Japan has a surfing culture that began over 100 years ago, the country isn’t known for the type of mammoth waves that can be found at surfing hotbeds like the North Shore of Hawaii or Big Sur in California.
The competition will be held over four days but organizers have given the surfing event a window of eight days if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
The IOC has also approved the inclusion of surfing on the program for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Most of the US team hails from California and are hoping surfing will stay in the program in 2028 when Los Angeles is set to host.