Olympic Surfing. How to Watch? Which Surfers Qualified?

Since the start of the Olympics in 1896, dozens of sports have been added or removed from Olympic competition.

The International Olympic Committee considers several different factors when adding new sports including the cost of developing venues, media interest and global popularity.

Just the other day, I heard someone ask, “Is Surfing an Olympic Sport?”

Surfing will debut as an Olympic sport for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. The event will consist of 20 men and 20 women competing in separate divisions. The surfers that are considered Olympic medal favourites are from the United States, Australia and Brazil.

As an Olympic sport, surfing will be exposed to new audiences which will drive the future growth of the sport.

Keep reading to learn Which Surfers Have Qualified and How to Watch Olympic Surfing.

Which Surfers Have Qualified for the Olympics?

The Olympic surfing event will have a male and female competition, with 20 men and 20 women competing for gold, silver and bronze medals.

Surfers can qualify for the Olympics through three different ways:

  1. The first 18 competitors (10 men & 8 women) will come from the Surfing Championship tour, which is the highest professional level of surfing
  2. The remaining 20 spots (9 men & 11 women) will come from International Surfing Association (ISA) World Games and the Pan American Games
  3. Two spots (1 man & 1 women) will be reserved for the host nation

List of Surfers That Have Qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics so far?

Olympic Male SurferOlympic Female Surfer
John John Florence (United States)Carissa Moore (United States)
Kolohe Andino (United States)Caroline Marks (United States)
Owen Wright (Australia)Stephanie Gilmore (Australia)
Julian Wilson (Australia)Sally Fitzgibbons (Australia)
Kanoa Igarashi (Japan)Shino Matsuda (Japan)
Gabriel Medina (Brazil)Tatiana Weston-Webb (Brazil)
Italo Ferreira (Brazil)Silvana Lima (Brazil)
Michel Bourez (France)Johanne Defay (France)
Jeremy Flores (France)Brisa Hennessy (Costa Rica)
Jordy Smith (South Africa)Daniella Rosas (Peru)
Lucca Mesinas (Peru)Bianca Buitendag (South Africa)
Frederico Morais (Portugal)Anat Lelior (Israel)
Ramzi Boukhiam (Morocco)Ella Williams (New Zealand)
Shun Murakami (Japan)
Billy Stairmand (New Zealand)

Medal Favourites: Which Surfers have a Chance at Gold?

The Championship Tour is the highest professional level for men and women in the sport of surfing. The Championship Tour is an elite competition between the top surfers competing at 11 events held at surf breaks around the world.

Over the last five years, the male and female champions have come from the United States, Australia & Brazil.

Check out the table below to review the top surfers in the world from 2015-2019.

YearMen’s Championship TourWomen’s Championship Tour
2015Adriano De Souza (Brazil)Carissa Moore (USA)
2016John John Florence (USA)Tyler Wright (Australia)
2017John John Florence (USA)Tyler Wright (Australia
2018Gabriel Medina (Brasil)Stephanie Gilmore (Australia)
2019Italo Ferreira (Brasil)Carissa Moore (USA)

Based on the past results above and current world rankings the Olympic Surfing medal favourites for the men and women are as follows:

Surfing Olympic Medal Favourites: Male

  • John John Florence (USA)
  • Gabriel Medina (Brazil)
  • Italo Ferreira (Brazil)

Surfing Olympic Medal Favourites: Female

  • Carissa Moore (USA)
  • Stephanie Gilmore (Australia)
  • Sally Fitzgibbons (Australia)

How to Watch Olympic Surfing?

Unless you plan on travelling to Japan to watch the Olympics in person, the best place to watch the Olympic surfing competition is on television or through a streaming service.

In the United States, NBC Universal has the broadcast rights to the Olympics games until the 2030’s. If you don’t have access to cable TV you can download the NBC App on your phone, tablet or streaming device.

In Australia, Seven Network has the broadcast rights to the Tokyo Olympic Games. Seven Network will broadcast the games over their existing channels including 7, 7TWO and 7mate.

In Canada, CBC/Radio-Canada has the broadcast rights to the Tokyo Olympics and will be working with partners Bell Media and Rogers Media to provide access to Canadians.

Where Will the Olympic Surfing Competition Take Place?

The venue for the Olympic Surfing competition at the Tokyo Olympics will take place at Tsurigasaki Beach.

The venue can hold up to 6000 spectators and is located on the east coast of Japan approximately 90 kilometres (55 miles) east of Tokyo.

The beach is known for consistent waves and has hosted several international surfing competitions. The surf spot is called Shidashita and is a sandy beach break that will catch swell from several different directions.

The surfing competition will be held over two days during a 16 day waiting period to make sure the best weather and wave conditions are chosen for the event.

Will Wave Pools be used as Olympic Surfing Venues?

When it was first announced that the inaugural Olympic surfing competition would be held in Tokyo, it was expected that the event would take place in a wave pool to guarantee consistent conditions for all competitors.

Wave pools are a relatively new invention where surfers ride “human made” waves in a giant pool. In 2018, the World Surf League held a professional surfing competition at the Surf Ranch, a wave pool created by Kelly Slater in Lemoore, California, USA.

Check out highlights in the video below.

In 2018, there were rumours that there was a similar wave pool being built in Japan in advance of the Tokyo Olympics.

According to Surfer Today, the wave pool in Japan will be ready in 2020 but the Olympic competition is still expected to take place at Tsurigasaki Beach.

How Did Surfing Become an Olympic Sport?

The origin of surfing becoming an Olympic sport can be traced back many decades.

Duke Kahanamoku, a famous surfer from Hawaii, is often considered to be the father of modern day surfing. Duke was also a 5 time Olympic medalist in swimming, three gold and two silver, and he always dreamed of day when surfing became an Olympic sport.

In 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to include surfing in the Tokyo Summer Olympics along with skateboarding, sport climbing, baseball, softball and karate.

Will Surfing be Included in Future Olympic Games?

In 2020, the International Olympic Committee confirmed the inclusion of surfing in the Paris 2024 Olympic games. The surfing event at the Paris Olympic games is expected to take place in Tahiti, an island in French Polynesia.

Teahupo’o in Tahiti is a reef break that is famous for it’s natural beauty, barreling waves and challenging conditions. Compared to the surfing venue at the Tokyo olympics, Teahupo’o is one of the heaviest waves in the world and would push competitors to their limits.

Check out the footage from a big swell at Teahupo’o, Tahiti.

What are the Rules in Olympic Surfing?

Olympic surfing events will be limited to shortboards, which are surfboards under 7 feet long with a pointy nose and designed for performance surfing.

Surfers will compete in 20-25 minutes heats and will be scored by a panel of judges.

The scoring is subjective and judges will score each ride on a scale of 1 to 10.

The judges will assign scores based on the following criteria:

  • Degree of difficulty
  • Innovation
  • Variety of maneuvers
  • Speed and flow

Surfers will compete against each other in heats of 4 competitors, with the top two surfers advancing to the next round until a champion is crowned. The top three surfers in the final heat will be awarded gold, silver and bronze.

In Conclusion:

Inclusion in the Olympic games is a major development for the sport of surfing.

For the first time in history, the top surfers will receive Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at the Olympic Games.


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