Surfing's first dance with the Olympics has just wrapped up and we have our very first gold medalists. Italo Ferreira and Carissa Moore took home the top honours in shifty conditions over in Japan.
In the opening seconds of the the men's final, Italo drove right to the roof of his opening wave, slammed the tail around and elevator dropped to the flats as that thing went more C shaped than top-to-bottom, his board buckling and then snapping. 20 seconds in and Italo had already gone full three espressos deep Italo -- and that's the kind of energy it took to win out against Kanoa Igarashi (Japan) in the final, with Owen Wright (Aus) taking the bronze medal over Gabriel Medina (Brazil).
And Riss Moore. Firstly, we called that the Hawaiian would win (we also called Gabby to win, Italo silver, with Steph Gilmore to get the silver for the women, so, one out of four ain't bad, no?) Secondly, that 7.60 ride in the final was something else. Degree of difficulty, huge set wave and again, like Italo above, attacked the lip with wholly reckless abandon and free-fell to the flats – but held on, styling it out, turning lemons into gold medals. And it just shows a level of prowess we hadn't seen in the comp – maybe rivalled by Flores' first (and the only) barrel in the event yesterday. Bianca Buitendag (South Africa) took the silver and Amuro Tsuzuki (Japan) the bronze after defeating Caroline Marks (USA).
But that felt like it was it, right? Nothing else impressed from surfing's first dance in the Olympics. It didn't feel like the showcase promised, like the springboard that would propel surfing to the masses -- which was what was promised all those years ago. And for some, that's a great thing. Whichever you look at it, if you were watching, was it all a bit meh? Or was it more representative of what surfing actually is, depending on where you are in the world.
The waves were, well, kind of what we all expected. Mushy, windy, closey, beachie -- with a few flashes of brilliance that suits the style of the likes of Italo and Carissa. There's also a bit of misinformation floating around from more mainstream media at the moment about this swell being a typhoon swell. That's not technically quite true. Typhoon In-Fa had been spinning far to the west of the contest site and a few days ago, an off shoot to the system's eastern flank broke away and then sandwiched the Olympic venue at Shidashita between that new system and the typhoon. What did that mean for the surf? Well, it made things tough.
Explaining the difference between the Typhoon and that new system MSW forecaster Tony Butt said: “The tropical cyclone to the east in the wake of In-Fa started to develop on Friday and was then about 800 miles southeast of Japan, with an area of southeast winds on its northeast flank.
“This system, which has now been acknowledged by the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) as ‘WTPN21’ is what produced surf for the contest area. Swell began generating through Friday and really delivered the size on Sunday.
“Today, that system had already moved north of the contest area. This meant local winds were lighter and began to back around to an easterly quarter. The exact direction and strength of the storm was highly volatile through the contest period.”
Regardless of how you feel about the Olympics, were you able to watch it, at all? Lots of people had trouble trying to even stream it. If you did, what did you think? Did it present surfing in an engaging way that showcased the best of the sport of kings and queens? Were you confused by the scores, just showing the total and not the breakdown? Did the colour contrasting throw you? Were you just stoked to see your protagonists go to town throughout?
We're still working through our thoughts about it all right now. There's a load to unpack, like, if this was the event that propelled surfing into the mainstream -- did it succeed? We'll keep you posted.