Stab Magazine | The 2020 Olympics Will Be Very Similar To The US Open
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The 2020 Olympics Will Be Very Similar To The US Open

4000-plus fans expected, traffic jams imminent…maybe a riot, who knows?

news // Jul 24, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The surf in Chiba Prefecture is not that much different than it is in Southern California right now. It’s less than a week out before the Vans U.S. Open and the south side of the Huntington Pier is about waist-high with a few plus sets. It’s a little bigger down at Lowers where a lot of the competitors have been training.

Chiba’s about the same right now. Some spots are flat, others are hanging in the two-to-three-foot range, while the magnets are pulling in chest-to-head-high pulses.

The point being, last weekend a “test” event was run at Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba, and while it certainly wasn’t typhoon-fueled fury, the waves appeared to be as serviceable as an average day at the U.S. Open. That’s probably a realistic place to put your expectation level.

The four-day test event featured 40 Japanese surfers, representing the 20 male and 20 female international surfers that will compete in the Games next year. They reportedly mirrored the format that we’ll be seeing in the Games, basically giving it a full trial run.

The format is different than a WSL Championship Tour contest. According to Olympic.org, round one featured four surfers, round two, somehow, had five, and from there on it was head-to-head. Heats were 30 minutes with the top two waves counting. The surfing portion of the 2020 Tokyo Games will be between July 26 – August 2, 2020. They’ll have an eight-day waiting period to run the four days of competition.

At the recent test event, Hiroto Ohhara won the men’s event, while Minami Nonaka took out the ladies division.

“There’s an idea that the waves aren’t sufficient but they were probably three to four feet, which is absolutely good contestable conditions for a solid competition,” ISA Director Robert Fasulo told the Associated Press. “I think the novelty and uniqueness of what we are bringing is going to create a lot of interest.”

“The waves today were a bit small,” countered Ohara, who won the 2015 U.S. Open in micro conditions, then a year later bought his car. “I plan to surf a lot and gain as much experience as I can, since I know this beach I hope to be able to use it my advantage during the Olympics if I qualify.”

Fasulo went on to tell the AP that they expected to see an estimated 4,000 fans on the beach during the Olympics. Tsurigasaki is about two hours outside of Tokyo and the infrastructure to support the crowds the Games draw has been in question. There is reportedly only one road in and out of the area, setting up potential traffic nightmares. There are also limited accommodations and restaurants. 

According to reports, the test event went off with relatively few hitches. It sounds like one of the biggest issues was that a bunch of sea turtles decided to lay their eggs in front of the judge’s tower the night before the contest, which required a little logistical ingenuity to proceed without disturbing the turtles. 

“The biggest three lessons were that the event format works, the waves are absolutely up to standard to run a high-quality, world-class event, and we can innovate a little bit in the way we present the sport,” concluded Fasulo.

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