Surfing at the Olympics: GB team and rules

While Team GB won't be catching any waves this year, there's plenty to look forward to as the sport of surfing make its Olympic debut

Surfing Olympics guide

Surfing is one of five sports which will be making their debut at the Olympics 2020, having been included in the Games for the first time – and the world’s top surfers will be taking to their boards this July in a bid to win the sport’s first-ever Olympic medals. Gnarly.

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The competition will take place in Japan, at Shidashita Beach in Chiba (on Tokyo Bay).

RadioTimes.com brings you up to speed with everything you need to know about surfing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in the summer of 2021.

When is surfing at the Olympics?

The men’s and women’s shortboard competitions are set to take place over four days between Sunday 25th July and Sunday 1st August, depending on wave conditions – but at the moment we’re looking at 26th-29th July.

Check out our guide on how to watch Olympics 2020 or see Olympics on TV today for more details, timings, and exclusive expert analysis from some of the biggest names in world sport over the coming weeks.

Sir Chris Hoy, Beth Tweddle, Rebecca Adlington, Matthew Pinsent and Dame Jess Ennis-Hill are among the stars we have to being their esteemed opinions, so don’t miss what they have to say.

Find out how you can watch the Tokyo 2020 Olympics closing ceremony.

Which Team GB athletes will compete in Olympic surfing?

Team GB will not be competing in Olympic surfing at the Tokyo Olympics. The qualifiers were held at four international competitions between 2019 and June 2021, but the British hopefuls did not place high enough to win a spot.

There are only 17 participating nations for this event, including Australia, Brazil, Japan, the United States, Peru and Portugal – and that’s based on the nationalities of the individual competitors who qualified.

Which surfers are competing?

In total, 40 surfers are competing; these include 20 men and 20 women. The maximum for each nation is four surfers, but some nations are represented by just one or two competitors.

Look out for Brazil’s Gabriel Medina, who is a two-time world champion; he has made it to four out of the five finals of the 2021 World Surf League men’s season so far, leading to two victories.

The Brazilian team also boast reigning men’s world champion Italo Ferreira.

Team USA are also likely to make a splash, led by four-time world champion Carissa Moore in the women’s surfing and by John John Florence in the men’s. Florence has been struggling with a string of injuries in recent years, but he’s also a two-time men’s world champion – and he’s expected to perform well.

Naturally, Australia are sending surfers to the Olympics, including Stephanie Gilmore, who has seven world titles already.

And Japan have a medallist hopeful in the form of Kanoa Igarashi.

Other surfers taking on the Olympics include Caroline Marks and Kolohe Andino (USA), and Owen Wright, Julian Wilson and Sally Fitzgibbons (Australia). Host country Japan are sending Hiroto Ohhara, Mahina Maeda and Amuro Tsuzuki. 

France are sending a full team of four, made up of Jeremy Flores, Michel Bourez, Pauline Ado and Johanne Defay. Peru are represented by Daniella Rosas, Lucca Mesinas, Sofia Mulanovich and Miguel Tudela.

They’ll be joined by Tatiana Weston-Webb and Silvana Lima (Brazil), Brisa Hennessy and Leilani McGonagle (Costa Rica), Jordy Smith and Bianca Buitendag (South Africa), Billy Stairmand and Ella Williams (New Zealand), and a team of three from Portugal: Frederico Morais, Teresa Bonvalot, and Yolanda Sequeria.

Then there are those who will be flying the flag for their nations by themselves: Rio Waida (Indonesia), Ramzi Boukhiam (Morocco),  Leandro Usuna (Argentina),  Anat Lelior (Israel), Dominic Barona (Ecuador), Leon Glatzer (Germany).

What are the rules of Olympic surfing?

Seeing as this is the first year that surfing has been included at all, the event is limited to shortboarding. In future Olympics, it’s possible they will also include events for longboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, and bodyboarding.

A judging process has been devised to keep things as objective as possible. The panel consists of five judges, who are well-qualified to analyse the athletes’ performances; they’ll score each wave on a scale of one to 10, with two decimal places. A perfect ride is 10 points.

For each wave, the judges’ highest and lowest scores will be discarded, so they’ll be given the average of the middle three judges’ scores. There is no limit to the number of waves a rider can catch, but at the end of their heat (20-35 minutes depending on surf conditions) the scores for their two highest-scoring waves will be combined for an overall total out of 20. Still with us?

As for what the judges will be looking for, there are five criteria:

  1. Commitment and degree of difficulty
  2. Innovative and progressive manoeuvres
  3. Variety of manoeuvres
  4. Combination of major manoeuvres
  5. Speed, power, and flow

Read more – check out our comprehensive guides to the Olympic sports: Baseball and Softball | Canoeing | Gymnastics | Karate | Shooting | Swimming | Table Tennis | Weightlifting

Radio Times Olympics Special issue is on sale now.

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