Surfing for the Olympics?

Image of Olympic 2012 torch bearer Tassy Swallow flying the flag

It was great to see Surfing GB Junior squad member Tassy Swallow making the national media carrying the London Olympic 2012 torch, but it made me wonder what the chances are of surfing becoming an Olympic sport. I remember a few Olympics ago this being debated – possibly before it went to Sydney. There is lots of debate about whether it should be or practically could be an olypmic sport.

  • Surfing is not really a competitive sport. Even though competing for waves at a crowded line-up displays all the characteristics of competition and survival of the fittest, many would argue that surf contests are an artificial construct. Judges award points (admittedly within guidelines) on subjective basis. However, this is hasn’t stopped synchronised diving and swimming from retaining their olympic status.
  • It would over-commercialise surfing. This is an argument often used by ‘soul surfers’ which has somewhat been blown out the water by surfing’s relentless growth and the planet’s Greatest Living Surfer, Gerry Lopez, endorsing surfing as an olympic sport. The International Surfing Association seem keen on the idea as well, so it has a head of steam behind it from the surfing world’s top brass.
  • There wouldn’t be an appropriate venue in all countries. The ‘London’ Olympics are staging sailing at Weymouth – hundreds of miles from London but only a few miles from one of England’s best surfbreaks (as long as the Army aren’t firing at you) and there’s no reason why the UK couldn’t have held an Olympics surf contest in Devon or Cornwall. Admittedly, the last Olympics in Athens may have struggled to find a natural venue within the country, but as Mr Lopez points out, artificial venues can be built.

So there seem to be few cogent reasons for thinking that surfing could not become an Olympic sport. If it does I only hope that Tassy Swallow’s torch carrying doesn’t go down in history as the only British surfer who achieved Olympic glory.


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