Absolutely Fucking Not: The Olympics Won’t—And Shouldn’t Be—Held In A Pool - Stab Mag
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Caroline Marx at the 2019 ISA World Games in Japan—which, as you can see, were also not in a pool. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Absolutely Fucking Not: The Olympics Won’t—And Shouldn’t Be—Held In A Pool

“There is no chance in hell.” -Fernando Aguerre, ISA President.

Words by Brendan Buckley

Yesterday, Stab published an informative opinion piece titled Surfing’s Olympic Debut Should Move To The New Japanese Wavepool

Today, we published a podcast hinting that We Have Reason To Believe the Olympics Might Actually Run in the Japan Pool

Shortly thereafter, my phone rang.

Fernando Aguerre—the president of the ISA, the man largely responsible for getting surfing in the Olympics, and a key player in the decision-making around surfing’s Olympic debut in Japan—was on the other line. He’s a lovely man to speak with. Fernando had just seen our Instagram video hyping the podcast

In the video, Mikey Ciaramella asked American Wave Machines’ Willy McFarland, “Have you had any conversations with the Olympic organizers? Is there any chance that this is actually a possibility?” 

“I’m just gonna say there’s a chance,” Willy replied. 

“There is no chance in hell,” Fernando told me on the phone. 

“They opened the pool and now they’re getting a lot of excitement,” he continued. “That’s good for them. But what they’re saying about the Olympics is not true. There has never even been one discussion between us, and the International Olympic Committee will not make a decision without talking to the International Surfing Association.” 

As we laid out in this story about how Olympic surfing will work, the ISA is charged with running the surfing portion of the Olympics. This is a good thing—you don’t want IOC suits in the judging booth, do you? 

Fernando was also able to confirm that the surfing portion of the 2024 Olympics will be held in Teahupo’o, nearly 10,000 miles away from the host city of Paris. It’s locked in, for real. Doesn’t matter where and how a pool comes from between now and then. 

Lest we forget.

“Later, it could come. The 2028 Olympics will be in Los Angeles. California has fun waves in the summer.” 

It will also have plenty of surf parks by then. Let’s hang around, maybe grab some cocktails, hope that climate change doesn’t kill us all, and see what happens, yes? 

Now, time for some opinion. 

Ten days out, deciding to switch to a completely new venue and format would have been genuinely ridiculous. Imagine if they told all the swimmers that they were moving their sport to a lake. 

Worst case scenario, they get bad waves in Japan. The gold medal is still awarded to one of the world’s best surfers—almost certainly Gabriel or Italo. Even in knee high waves, their surfing is enough to make you want to compete with a pack of 12-year-olds for the nearest air section. 

And here’s the venue.

And then it’s on to Tahiti in three years, and that’s fucking incredible. Going to a pool would have set a precedent for surfing in the Olympics, which would have prevented us from getting Teahupo’o. 

Let’s be honest. Surfing ain’t ready to marry wavepools. And for good reasons. 

Many people, myself included, believe they will remove elements of expression remain in performance surfing, turning us into, say, acrobats or stupid fucking halfpipe snowboarders. There is no proof of this, but there’s reason to be skeptical. 

Speaking of proof, there is literally none for pools actually making a traditional surf contest more exciting. The only wave pool event on the CT is by far the Tour’s most boring. I enjoyed the shittiest day in Newcastle much more than Ranch. (Stab High is great, but it’s far from a traditional surf comp.) 

The ocean is unpredictable. Reading the water is a skill. One that you can work at. One that has value. And whether surfing started in Polynesia, Peru, China, Africa, or somewhere else, that skill has always been valuable. These days, that skill translates to things like Peter Mel sitting deep and getting wave at Maverick’s or Medina floating over a section to get speed for a fuck-you-big air.

It’s one of the most compelling things about surfing. 

Is it really worth losing that for a chlorinated air section?

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