The Coach Of Jordy Smith And CJ Hobgood Named Head US Olympic Coach
Chris Gallagher Stone to take America to Japan in 2020.
For Chris Gallagher Stone, 2019 was supposed to be a year to spend at home in Hawaii watching his family grow, shaping surfboards. After joining Jordy Smith on tour last year, he felt the need to put some roots down this lap around the sun.
By the first week of January, Gally’s plans had taken an abrupt change. Originally Gally was a minor player as the Olympic performance coach but when head coach, Joey Buran stepped down, he was quietly named the head coach of America’s first Olympic surf team. Originally hailing from Santa Cruz, he served his time on the Championship Tour, knows his way around a shaping bay, and has coached everyone from Jordy to CJ Hobgood.
“Opportunities like this don’t come around that often,” Gally said when Stab caught up with him. “I had to go for it.”
Excited about the task in front of him, Gally’s most eager to see where high-performance surfing can go when it gets the Olympic treatment.
“I think there are surfers that realize, if they train like a gymnast, have all that strength, and flexibility, and explosiveness, they could really take their surfing to some exciting places,” continued Gally. “It’s going to be really interesting who takes that and runs with it. What could be?... That’s what gets me excited.”
The date of the opening ceremony for the Japan Games is July 24, 2020. We’re almost exactly 18 months out.
“This year is a qualification year and people want to know what they need to do,” Gally says. “Once they saw what the U.S.O.C. and USA Surfing can provide for them, through the high-level training and assessments that they can offer, people were like, ‘Woah, this is pretty cool…”
Gally’s objective, like any Olympic sport in any country in the world, is to win a Gold Medal. Building a strong foundation, dialing in the youth development program, it’s all important—but it’s the glitter of that Gold that’s the mark of success when it comes to the Games.
“Plain and simple, the goal is to get a Gold Medal,” Gally says. “That’s what the funding is all about and that’s what the U.S.O.C. wants to see out of a new sport. If the program succeeds, and the developmental pieces are all there, and there are medals involved, then surfing goes to the next level in terms of the support it’s going to get. I think it’s exciting to the athletes, what’s available to them in the long-term.”
Gally freely admits there was no shortage of unknowns when he stepped into this role, but it’s a challenge he’s embracing. He knows his way around a CT contest better as good as anyone. But a chance to step onto the Olympic stage, that’s brand new…for everyone involved.
“This is the beginning of something that’s potentially a very long process. Everyone is trying to figure out how you qualify, can you get the team together to train? Are they unified? Do they care? Do they not want to be there? All these different things have to be worked over,” said Gally. “Any time there’s something new there are bound to be unknowns, and this is a long-term process, and I guess the long-term goal would be that there’s this standardized training for Hawaiian and Mainland surfers that they can access.”
“We wouldn’t be having this conversation at all if this was the fifth Olympics that surfing was in, this would be all standardized stuff and everything would be all figured out. The stage is crazy big and so much more beyond anything anyone in surfing has been exposed to."
In terms of what he hopes to get out of his Olympic experience, Gally would love for there to be some waves. Chiba in the summer is notoriously fickle, but he’s got his fingers crossed that with a little luck there’s a pulse.
“Hopefully there’s some waves, and hopefully we’re able to showcase to the world how incredible surfing is,” surmised Gally. “These are elite athletes that deserve to stand there, shoulder to shoulder, with the rest of the world’s best. I can’t wait. It’s going to be here before we know it.”