Surf is right now very close to becoming an Olympic sport, and while opinions diverge, perhaps every surf school in Portugal rejoices, since the sport has seen tremendous growth in the country, becoming a stalwart of tourism and one of the most important sports in the country.
Could or should surf become an Olympic sport?
Surf is indeed one of the eight sports shortlisted to be added to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a list also including bowling, Karate, baseball and even Wunshu. For some, this will be the fulfilling of a long-had dream.
To be certain there is absolutely no reason for surf not becoming an Olympic sport, on the grounds of its health merits, ecological impact and social benefits. For Fujio Mitarai, the inclusion of surf in the Olympic games is mutually beneficial, on one hand because the sport is highly popular with the Japanese youth, and on the other because it will represent an opportunity to associate surfers with the Olympic spirit and principles.
But within the surf community, not all agree the sport should be part of the Olympics. Owen Wright, one of the world"s top surfers is one of those who feels that surf and Olympic games don"t mix. In his own words, "I think surfing in itself is more of an art form and an expression so I think the Olympic banner doesn"t really suit the sport of surfing." Not quite a visceral reaction as that of Matt Warshaw, to whom the idea makes him want to puke.
Others have a more favourable opinion, such as Brazil"s Gabriel Medina, who feels he would be honoured to represent his country in the games.
So where"s the catch? By nature and definition, surf is an ocean sport and for it to be a part of the Olympic games, organizers will provide the modality with a pool and artificial waves. This isnot the ideal solution for many, because it is felt that that option doesn"t replicate the reality of the sport.
There are also those who feel surf requires no validation of any kind and as such doesn"t need the approval of the International Olympic Committee. There are obvious benefits for surf, but even more for the business around it.
The take of surf school in Portugal
Any surf school in Portugal could really benefit from this step, as they have all the key ingredients to become beacons to surfers all over the world to come and to train, prepare and excel. Options are limitless. From scholarships to patronage, all sorts of programs can be created to make Portugal an incubator of surf champions, and our schools the best in the world.
The country has it all, gathering a particularly varied set of surfing conditions, thanks to the diversity of its climate and geography, so we could go as far as considering it an ideal surf college as a whole.
But does this ultimately mean the sport itself is being helped, or the business around it?
Here, a balance must be struck. It would be rather hypocritical to deny there is already a huge deal of money flowing through surf events, surf being worth some 6 billion dollars in the US alone. But it"s also a very democratic sport, and everybody is free to surf as they see fit. If pure business mentality should be applied to it, then we could fear it might become too elitist, too selective, in which case the inclusion in the Olympic games would be of some use to some in surf, but not for the masses of common surfers who enjoy their swells and just want to be close to the environment in their physical activity.
Whatever the outcome, there is the possibility there will be a division within the surfing community, hopefully not torn between those in the WSL circuit and those in the Olympics where conditions are different. In what we"re concerned, as a surf school in Portugal, we view this possibility as a challenge and as an opportunity.
Surf has already evolved a lot since its origins in the Pacific islands. Materials, techniques and standards have evolved, and should continue to evolve. For any surf school in Portugal, this means we, as a whole can be at the forefront of the sport"s future, with Portugal being the European destination of choice for anyone looking to learn or improve his/her technique and mastery.
We are open to any surfer of any skill. And regardless of the Olympic question, we always will.