Gold Medals, Miyazaki Beef, And The Flowering Bromance of Kelly Slater And Kolohe Andino
The Shape Of Things To Come: Behind the scenes at the most complicated and pride-filled competition the surf world's ever seen.
Welcome to oN Contest, a special episode of our deep dive professional tour series, No Contest, on location in Miyazaki at the 2019 ISA Games, and 2020 Olympic qualifiers.
Why? Well, this year, any World Championship Tour surfers with their hearts set on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were required to compete for their country at the ISA World Surfing Games, and we knew that, despite low or non-existent expectations, that the event would actually be pretty fuckin' radical. In a way, it's the very first of its kind, and of many more to come.
From Tahiti, it’s an 11hr flight to Tokyo, Japan, then a two-hour flight south to Miyazaki, on Kyushu, the third largest of Japan’s five main islands and one of the most popular coastal destinations in Japan. Miyazaki is hot and subtropically humid. The city is classically Japanese, bustling and frenetic, and let’s just say visually stimulating. But as you drive south the madness gives way to lush green hills, volcanic mountains littered with waterfalls, hot springs, and gorgeously ornate ancient shrines and temples.
For this episode we were embedded with Team USA—Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks, and Courtney Conlogue, on the women's side, and Kelly Slater, Conner Coffin, and Kolohe Andino on the men's—as they butchered their way through dozens and dozens of heats (literally together, like in the tag-team Aloha Cup relay, which almost killed Slater, and as a team getting behind their countrymen and countrywomen, in hundreds of heats over ten days).
Gold Medal or a World Title?
Next year at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, a surfer will win a Gold Medal alongside dozens of other international stars, and there's very good reason to believe the once-fringe pursuit will be a major focus of the event. We're told the Olympic suits are aware of a need to broaden their viewership and demographic, and the cultural capital surfing's inclusion brings can't be overstated.
"As far as who wins the Gold Medal in surfing, they'll quickly be probably the most well-known surfer in the world," says Slater.
But would that matter to the core?
"World Champ is World Champ," most agree.
The Flowering Bromance of Kolohe Andino
We get the sense Japan was the first time Kelly Slater and Kolohe Andino have ever really bonded, properly. We interviewed them together and separately, and got a glimpse into their long-overdue bromance, as they both put in massive performances, which...
Final's Day's fireworks were anything but boring, three rounds of typhoon pits and more than a few pits. Above and below, Italo Ferreira and Kolohe Andino's Grand Final flourishes. Photos courtesy of ISA.
"It's either a pit, or the biggest air section of your life" - Kolohe Andino.
Final's Day at the ISA Games was proper good viewing, and we stayed embedded with Team USA's Brett Simpson and Chris Gallagher as they walked the boys through their Semifinal Superheat, Kelly's Repechage Final, and Kolohe's Silver Medal finish Grand Final performance, with a color commentary cameo from Chris Cote...
Chris Cote and Conner Coffin Play Miyazaki
"He's trying to fit fifty-five countries into this little bar?" - Gony Zubizaretta
After an impressive spread of Miyazaki's world-renowned steak, we rolled through tri-lingual commentator and international playboy Ben Wei's impromptu rager with Chris Cote and Conner Coffin, a night which spilled into the streets and didn't end for most of the young Olympic hopefuls until very, very early in the morning.
This is oN Contest, Miyazaki.