On a hot summer's day in Japan, Brazil's Italo Ferreira won the first-ever heat of Olympic surfing, in small, fun conditions at Shidashita Beach.
"That was a good heat to put the pressure on, try to impress the judges and to see how they score ... I'm so glad to be a part of this history," Ferreira told the International Surfing Association (ISA).
After a year-long pandemic-induced delay and all the highs and heartbreak of qualification -- and more than a century after Hawaii's Duke Kahanamoku first championed Olympic surfing -- 40 surfers representing 18 countries and 5 continents finally competed on the biggest stage in global sport.
Nine heats were run today, with Round One and Round Two completed. Once the final buzzer had sounded, eight athletes had been eliminated, and the draw for Round Three had been locked in.
The first-and-second placed surfers in Round One progressed straight to Round Three, while the two lower-placed athletes were relegated to the make-or-break elimination Round Two, made up of five-person heats from which only three competitors could advance.
Seven-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore locked in the highest two-wave total of the day, a 14.50, while Ferreira wasn't far behind -- bringing his trademark energy and big airs -- with a 13.67, on a historic day when surfing's big names rose to the occasion and dominated the field.
Team Brazil has made their intentions crystal clear, with Ferreira, Gabriel Medina and Tatiana Weston-Webb all placing first in their Round One heats, while Silvana Lima placed second in her high-scoring heat against Gilmore, meaning the entire team was straight through to Round Three.
Meanwhile, four-time World Champion and Team USA member Carissa Moore -- another of the clear medal favorites -- also put in a characteristically solid performance, winning her heat with an 11.74 two-wave total.
"I was trying not to cry! I was thinking of my family because they had a watch party at home, so I was thinking about how they are here with me, and I felt them," Moore explained. "This is a culmination of my whole life, and I wouldn't be here today without the community of people behind me - I think that is why it is extra special.
The USA's Caroline Marks also advanced, making Team USA and Team Australia the most dominant nations in the women's draw, with all team members winning their respective heats, including Australia's Sally Fitzgibbons who racked up a 12.50 total.
One of the biggest upsets of the day was veteran competitor Julian Wilson of Team Australia placing last in Heat Three of the men's Round One, meaning he needed to deal with Round Two and potential elimination, though he managed to sneak through in third place, keeping his run alive.
This will be a relief to Wilson -- he recently announced he was stepping back from competitive surfing and putting all his energy towards securing a medal for Australia; an elimination on the first day of the competition would have been heartbreaking.
Another upset was the USA's John John Florence failing to advance straight to Round Three. Florence had surgery on an injured knee earlier this year, and there was a lot of speculation about whether or not he would even be able to surf in Tokyo. Still, he dominated his Round Two heat, winning comfortably with a 12.77 two-wave total.
During Heat Four of the women's Round One, Japan's Amuro Tsuzuki incurred a non-priority interference which saw her come in fourth place, meaning both her and teammate Mahina Maeda needed to battle through Round Two, though both did enough to advance.
There are better conditions in the forecast with approximately three more days of competition to take place during the remaining seven-day window, so expect to see some big scores as the event moves into more intense head-to-head heats from Round Three.
Competition is expected to resume on July 26 at 7:00am local time.