A bronzed Hawaiian named Duke Kahanamoku stands triumphant on the Olympic podium, a buttery-gold medal dangling from his muscled neck. Having just bested the world, the Duke is on Cloud 9. For this young Hawaiian, whom many have called the greatest swimmer of his era, this moment marks his fifth time standing on an Olympic podium, a feat that many never believed to be possible.
In addition to his prowess in the pool, Duke is largely regarded as being the father of modern-day surfing and as an advocate for surfing’s inclusion in the games. Fast-forward 100 years and Duke’s vision has become a reality. Come the 2020 games in Japan, surfing will be a part of the competitive field. While Duke’s dream validates many surfers’ aspirations, it was Fernando Aguerre’s, head of the International Surfing Association, hard work that made it a reality. For decades, Aguerre has been on a tireless campaign to bring surfing to the masses under the banner of the fabled five rings.
"Duke Kahanamoku's dream is realized. Surfing makes the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. A wave of goodwill across the world,” said Shaun Tomson, former world champion surfer, when hearing the news.
"Surfing is truly a global sport, more popular and more widely practiced than many current Olympic sports. Surfing is pursued in every corner of the world, in more than a hundred countries. There are now over 35 million surfers worldwide!" added Aguerre.
While there’s going to be a mountain of work between now and the unveiling of Olympic surfing, one thing is a near-certainty: if there’s at a stacked field, you can rest assured that there’s going to be some surfers from the North Shore representing the United States.
For nearly 20 years Rainos Hayes, a one-time professional surfer and North Shore local, has been coaching Team Hawaii to compete in the annual ISA Games. (The games are an international affair that sees surfers from more than 70 countries compete against each other.) Hayes’s was honored to hear the news that surfing would be in the mix in 2020 and was confident that Hawaii would field some surfers on the US team.
“This is such a huge deal for the sport. I know there’s quite a bit of work to do we need to iron out how the team is selected, but I think the Hawaiian surfers have all of the talent needed to be on that team,” Hayes added. “I felt really proud when I heard the news. This is a real opportunity for a lot of our young surfers to be accepted as the legitimate athletes they are and to help legitimize the sport. It would be great to be there at the games and have some young Hawaiian surfers competing.”
While the games are still four years away, you can rest assured that there are dozens of today’s young surfers drifting off to sleep at night with gold-medal dreams. And we wouldn’t be surprised that if, four years from now, some of them will be standing tall on the podium, the national anthem blaring overhead, just like Duke.
Photos: The IOC / The ISA