March 25, 2016
Words by Dashel Pierson Surfline.com
One of the most contentious debates plaguing the surf community of late,other than sharks, Alana Blanchard’s bottom-turn and the validity of SUPs, is whether or not the sport should be included in the Olympic Games. Purists argue no; they feel an Olympic berth would ruin the sanctity of surfing, turning it into a mainstream money sport, not a carefree pastime.
Others say yes; claiming it’ll boost the sport’s clout, bring it to world’s stage and most importantly because it’s the GODDAMN OLYMPICS FOR CHRISSAKE!
A member of the latter mindset, though perhaps less vehemently, is Kelly Slater. And if surfing were to be included in the 2020 Tokyo Games, Slater says he’d compete.
In an interview for In Depth with Graham Bensinger, Slater discussed, among other things, his thoughts on the surfing in the Olympics debate. Graham spends the day with the most decorated professional surfer ever, 11-time world champion, Kelly Slater. Slater – both the youngest and oldest surfer to win world titles – opens up about bringing surfing to the Summer Olympics, coping with his father’s battle with alcoholism and a recent near-death experience during a surfing accident. Slater also welcomes viewers into his life today, including his pursuit to build Kelly Slater Wave Parks, his passion for music, his sustainable apparel brand and a trip to the Malibu coast to teach Graham to surf.
“To have a repeatable, comparing apples-to-apples kind of competition, where it’s more of an objective thing and less subjective, then I think this is the way to do it. I think that we could create a good enough, high enough, high quality-enough wave in order to make the playing field totally fair for people… It’s not like, ‘You got the lucky wave that came’ or ‘he read the conditions right,’ which is obviously, I think, a huge skill in surfing as well… Just to be able to actually compare the actual skills on a wave… it would be much easier to do if you have a good, repeatable, quality wave… I know we’re going to hold competitions in the pool at some point.”
Hmm…interesting. Didn’t Kelly recently have some sort of involvement in an artificial wave? Or was that chia seeds? Anyway, Bensinger goes on to press whether Kelly would compete in the Games, if it were to happen, to which the 11-time World Champ responds:
“I think if we finally do get into the Olympics and I’m physically fine; if I don’t have injuries and I get chosen by the States to surf in that, it’d be a huge honor. I think, especially at that age, it would be a huge honor.”By the time of the 2020 Games, Slater would be the ripe old age (by athlete standards) of 48. The oldest “athlete” to compete in the Olympic Games was a Swedish man named Oscar Swahn who, at 72 years old, participated in the “sport” of shooting. Swahn also holds the title of oldest gold medalist, winning top honors at 64 in the 1912 Summer Games. Judging by the fantastical physical state Slater’s in now, nobody would put it past him to still be competing in four years’ time. Let alone dominating the tykes by large margins his junior.
But all this remains a big “if.” Last year, surfing made the shortlist of sports being considered for the 2020 Games along with five others, including skateboarding. The final decision will be made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.