Sally Fitzgibbons will be one of the gold medal favourites in the surf at Tokyo. Image: Sally Fitzgibbons/Twitter

Surfing will feature for the first time at an Olympic Games in Tokyo, and it’s set to be an exciting debut. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach will host 40 athletes – 20 male and 20 female to compete for the gold medals on offer for the debut event, when the event kicks off on July 25th.

The event is headlined by the Australian womens’ surfers Sally Fitzgibbons and Stephanie Gilmore, as well as John John Florence from the USA and Brazilian Gabriel Medina for the men. 


How will the event work?

Each competition (male and female) will be played across three rounds and three finals. 

The competition will be broken down into heats of four riders in the first round and five riders in the second round, with two from each heat qualifying to the subsequent round.

From the third round through to the final, the heats will be played in a one-on-one format, with the highest-scoring rider qualifying.

Heats will last for 30 minutes, during which riders will try and catch as many waves as possible, receiving a score of 0-10 for every wave they surf. The two highest-scoring waves from each surfer contribute to their final score.

How will the event be scored?

Riders will be scored by a panel of expert judges on a mixture of criteria.

Commitment and difficulty is the primary category on which the judges focus, and analyses the degree of difficulty, risk and type of moves performed. The degree of risk of the wave the riders choose is also factored into the score in this category.

Judges will also analyse the innovation of a rider’s moves, and how they utilise progressive and unique techniques and manoeuvres when riding.

The variety in the types of manoeuvres a rider uses is also a factor in the way they are scored, and they will also be scored based on the combination of moves they use (such as barrels, turns and aerials).

Lastly, the riders’ technique will be judged in three main categories – speed, power and flow. These refer to how a rider can adapt to the changing wave conditions and maintain a fluent, clean and visually impressive performance.

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Australian Surfing Team

Australia is one of six nations to have four surfers representing it in Tokyo, alongside Brazil, France, hosts Japan, Peru and the USA. Other countries which will be represented by multiple athletes include Costa Rica, New Zealand, Portugal and South Africa.

Australia is well-placed to pose a medal threat at Tokyo 2020, with Sally Fitzgibbons, Stephanie Gilmore, Julian Wilson and Owen Wright all qualifying at the 2019 World Surf League Championship Tour.

Sally Fitzgibbons

Fitzgibbons won gold at the recent World Surfing Games, and is well and truly making a case to be a gold medal favourite. She finished almost five points ahead of second-place and has won a multitude of pro events across her career. With recent and historical form, Fitzgibbons looms as a serious gold medal fancy at Tokyo.

Stephanie Gilmore

A 7-time world champion, Gilmore will enter the surfing event in Tokyo as a veteran of the sport. She’ll be another big gold medal chance due to this experience, alongside Fitzgibbons. Gilmore will certainly be one to watch in Tokyo, as one of the most recognisable and illustrious surfers worldwide.

Julian Wilson

Wilson is another experienced member of Australia’s surfing team. He has won five WSL Championship Tour events and finished 11th overall in the 2019 instalment, with a third-place finish at the Margaret River Pro and fifth-place finishes at the Rio and Surf Ranch Pro events.

Owen Wright

Wright’s journey to Tokyo 2020 is nothing short of inspirational. In 2015 he was well-placed to claim a WSL title, but suffered a life-threatening brain injury in a warm-up session before the final event. Sitting out the entire 2016 season, Wright re-taught himself how to surf and in 2017 burst back onto the scene with a sixth-placed finish in the WSL Championship Tour. He finished sixth again in 2018 and ninth in both 2019 and 2020, and after qualifying for Tokyo 2020 has a chance to put the biggest of all exclamation marks on his comeback story.

The surfing competition at Tokyo 2020 will begin on July 25, and conclude between July 28 and August 1, depending on weather and surf conditions.

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