Surfing will make its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games, and forty surfers will make history when they compete for Gold in the Men's and Women's divisions at Shidashita Beach. With the clock ticking, it's time to see where we are at. Which athletes are already provisionally qualified? Who has not? And what conditions can we expect when the Games kick off on July 24?
CT Surfers Who Have Provisionally Qualified
Twenty men and twenty women will compete in each division. In the Men's division, 10 surfers will come from the WSL World Championship Tour with their qualification based on their 2019 results. A maximum of two surfers are allowed from each nation.
The CT surfers provisionally qualified are:
- Italo Ferreira
- Gabriel Medina
- Jordy Smith
- Kolohe Andino
- John John Florence
- Jeremy Flores
- Michel Bourez
- Owen Wright
- Julian Wilson
- Kanoa Igarashi.
If for any reason one of these surfers can't make the Olympics due to injury or illness, the next highest-rated CT surfer from that nation would take the vacated place. Filipe Toledo (Brazil), Kelly Slater (USA) and Ryan Callinan (Australia) are the next surfers in line in that scenario.
In the Women's division, eight CT surfers will enter the field in Tokyo. Those provisional qualifiers are:
- Carissa Moore
- Caroline Marks
- Stephanie Gilmore
- Sally Fitzgibbons,
- Johanne Defay
- Tatiana Weston-Webb
- Silvana Lima
- Brisa Hennessy.
Non-CT Provisional Qualifiers
The remaining Olympic qualification places are determined by three International Surfing Association (ISA) events. Of those, the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games and the 2019 Pan American Games have already been held. From these, five male and five female athletes have provisionally qualified for the Olympics. The men are Lucca Mesinas, Billy Stairmand, Frederico Morais, Shun Murakami and Ramzi Boukhiam.
Apologies, but you'll hear this word a lot. The above surfers are only provisionally qualified. Why? The final - and mandatory - qualification event, the 2020 ISA World Surfing Games, is to be held from May 9-17 at Surf City, El Salvador. This event sits at the top of the qualification heirachy. From these Games, the first five eligible men and first seven eligible women will earn qualification.
The only way one of the provisionally-qualified surfers from 2019 events can be bumped out of contention is if two of their countrymen were to qualify in El Salvador. Say, for example, if two other Portuguese surfers came first and second in the Final in El Salvador, that would mean Ferderico Morais would lose his spot. It's highly unlikely, but still a possibility.
How El Salvador Plays In
It's also worth noting that all the CT surfers provisionally qualified for the Olympics will also compete in the 2020 ISA World Surfing Games. Now, anyone thinking that the athletes will travel to El Salvador just to make up the numbers and ensure their eligibility might want to look to the performance of Italo Ferreira in the 2019 version of this event.
After a lost passport and visa issues, the Brazilian showed incredible commitment just to make the competition. He arrived at the site halfway through his first heat, but went on to win the whole competition, surfing with a new-found level of passion that comes with representing your country. No doubt the other CT surfers will bring the same level of commitment and performance to the world class pointbreak of El Sunzal, where the event is to be held.
By May 31, 2020 the ISA will inform each respective National Olympic Committee of their eligible allocated quota places. The NOC's then have another 15 days to confirm the use of their allocation and all surfer entries will need to be ratified by the official deadline of 6th July, 2020.
In reality, most of that process is a formality. As soon as the 2020 ISA Games are done, we should know the exact make up of the two 20-person fields. Only injuries would change the roster. Those 40 surfers will then head to Tokyo ready to make history when the Olympic Games start on 24th July, 2020.
But what can they expect wave-wise in Japan? Read on.
Shidashita Beach, or "Shida," is located just 40 miles east of Tokyo on the Chiba Prefecture's Pacific coastline. The break's reputation as a swell magnet and its location just an hour's drive from Tokyo has made it one of Japan's most iconic surf spots. It is a punchy beachbreak with its quality mainly due to a series of jetties on the beach that create consistent sandbars.
This also isn't its first surfing rodeo. Chiba has played host to a number of professional-level surfing contests over the years, including a number of CT events. The most famous being when the late Andy Irons (and his iconic Rising Sun-print boardshorts) defeated Kelly Slater in the Final in epic conditions in 2005.
"We identified that average surf heights at Shida are in the thigh-waist-chest high range during the dates of interest (July 24-August 9)," wrote Surfline Chief Meteorologist Mark Willis after looking at a decade of data. "In addition, the climatological trend is for surf heights to gradually increase from July 24 to August 9, as the statistical chances of seeing typhoon swells increases."
Surfing is definitely the only one of the 33 sports at the Olympics that will be hoping for a typhoon. But in 2017, for example, Tropical Storm Omais arrived within the waiting period dates and delivered overhead typhoon surf with easing offshore winds. The same thing happened in 2016. The Western Pacific is also one of the most active tropical regions in the world, averaging 26 named storms a season. So it's entirely possible we could see surfing's first ever Olympic medals being decided in pumping Typhoon-induced conditions.
Let the Games begin!