By Dan Dobbin.
Are you old enough to remember the 2000 Olympics in Sid-o-ney? The one that the now dearly departed Juan Antonio Samaranch declared the “Best Olympics ever!” Cathy Freeman shouldering the hopes of a nation to victory in the 400 metres final, proudly draped in both national and indigenous flags. Eric Moussambani AKA “Eric the Eel” from Equatorial Guinea covering 100 metres in a record slow 1.52 seconds in his first time in an Olympic sized pool. Roy and HG’s coverage of the Gymnastics. “The Spinning date into a battered sav”.
In my home town, a local high school student made international headlines by trying to put out out the Olympic torch with a fire extinguisher as it passed. (Funny fact, the whole Olympic torch relay thing was introduced by the Nazi’s before the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but we digress…..).
Short board surfing will makes its Covid delayed Olympic debut in the probably shitty beach breaks of Chiba, Japan in just over 2 weeks. International news organisation Reuters threw down speculation that should surfing prove watchable as an event, the doors could be flung open for other watercraft riders as well saying:
“Should these competitions provide the spectacular drama and visuals usually associated with the sport, other events such as longboards, bodyboards and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) may be included at future Games.”
Earlier this year Surfing Australia debuted “The Irukanjis”, Australia’s prospective future Olympic representatives. Team Irukanji featured Shortboarders , SUP pilots, Longboarders and disabled surfers. One glaring omission; No boogers.
The pathway to Olympic qualification is through the International Surfing Association, who recently wrapped up the World Surfing Games in El Salvador. (The eagled eyed amoungst you would have noticed Mike Stewart helping out the Canadian Surfing team in a coaching role).
The ISA has previously run bodyboarding championships to crown ISA bodyboarding champions, but due to lack of interest from the bodyboarding community no event has been staged since 2015.
Now given that bodyboarding currently has no professional tour, no current way of crowning a world champion, fractured or non existent national tours in many countries, no representation in the ISA and in Australia no real representation within Surfing Australia, the idea that bodyboarding will be the next cab of the rank to compete in future Olympic Games seems a little pie in the sky at the moment.
“So what” I hear you scoff. “Nationalism is sooo 20th century. Who cares about not watching guys do spins and flops in some twizzy beachbreak for a shiny piece of metal”.
Weeelll, know where the next Olympic Games after Toyko is slated for in 2024?
Know where the nominated surf break is for the surfing gold metal?
Yes, thanks to a little geopolitical process in the 19th and 20th centuries you may have heard of called colonialism, French Polynesia, made up of 118 volcanic and coral islands and atolls, including Tahiti, is French territory.
So while Joe and Jane Citizen might struggle to get excited about watching surfing as Filipi Toledo bobs up and down next to Kanoa Igarishi in 2ft windslop at Toyko 2021, it’s a pretty certain bet they’ll sit up and take notice if Chopes is 12 foot and heaving for Paris 2024.
And who does 12 foot heaving slabs better than anyone? Bodyboarders!
A competition broadcast to every corner of the globe, paid for by the Olympic committee, in waves custom built to showcase bodyboarding at it’s finest? Sound like an opportunity bodyboarding can’t miss?
Well let me add cream to the pudding. What’s the biggest obstacle that has continually held back bodyboarding for the past few decades?
Deniro, Mullah, Ching Ching, Cash!
Or lack thereof.
Want to know what happens if you are accepted as an Olympic sport? You automatically qualify for government funding and resources.
Cash injections to train coaches, run training camps, development pathways, promotional budgets. A whole new revenue stream and employment opportunities for the sport, paid for by tax payers.
You think it’s a coincidence that with the decline of the apparel industry surfing aligned itself with government agencies like sporting and tourism bodies?
Government money is surfing sugar daddy money.
So while the idea of bodyboarding one day being an Olympic sport might currently seem ridiculous, the opportunities that could be gained if we could actually make it happen could be monumental in securing the middle to long term future of the sport.
Seems like it might be time to forget about trying to run world tours that no one can afford to compete on and instead focus on securing a place at the table for Olympic Games greatness!