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Seasoned superstars win gold in surfing's Olympic debut

Seasoned superstars win gold in surfing's Olympic debut

A series of underdogs stole the show at the beginning of surfing’s historic Olympic debut but two of the sport’s most seasoned superstars took home the gold medalsBy SALLY HO Associated PressJuly 27, 2021, 10:15 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleICHINOMIYA, Japan — After a series of underdogs stole the show at the beginning of surfing’s historic Olympic debut, two of the sport’s most seasoned superstars took home the gold medals.Carissa Moore of the United States and Italo Ferreira of Brazil became the first Olympic surfing champions on Tuesday, more than a century after the sport first tried to get on the program.The 28-year-old Moore, the darling child prodigy who could beat the boys and grew up to be the youngest world champion surfer, preserved after struggling in the early heats.“It’s been a crazy couple of days,” Moore said. “A little bit of a rollercoaster of emotions just trying to figure out the break, find my rhythm, learning how to trust myself without my family here.”The relatively modest beach break conditions were so unlike the world class waves she’s used to as a veteran of the professional tour and at home in Hawaii. By the end, the methodical and well-loved surfer finally got in rhythm with the ocean in time to deliver the kind of standout performance that has defined her career.The picture-perfect ending even included a rainbow that popped into the sky as Moore, who is the only Native Hawaiian surfer at the Games, shredded waves in the final against South African rival Bianca Buitendag.Calling it “divine intervention,” the 17th-ranked Buitendag won silver after pulling off upset after upset over the three-day competition, starring in some of the contest’s biggest moments in her path to the Olympic podium.When the clock ran out in the men’s final, Ferreira turned to the ocean, collapsed his hands together in a prayer and wept, nearly knocked over by the waves crashing onto shore as he thanked God for a dominate showing throughout the inaugural contest.He won his final handily against Kanoa Igarashi of Japan despite crashing through an air to land on a broken board. The incident required a quick board switch on shore near the beginning of the heat, which didn’t seem to rattle the man who had so little growing up that he first learned to surf on a cooler.“I broke my good board on my first wave. That board gives me good speed, the other one is more slow,” the 27-year-old Ferreira said. “It’s super hard out there, but I knew that there was a lot of opportunities around.”Both Moore and Ferreira will be back on the World Surf League tour next month, with stops in Oaxaca, Mexico, and Teahupo’o, Tahiti. The famous French Polynesia reef break also happens to be the site of the 2024 Olympic surfing contest.Igarashi, the silver medalist who surfed a career best air that sent him soaring over the water for seven seconds in an earlier heat, couldn’t hide his disappointment that he didn’t come out on top in the last moments of his Olympic journey.“It’s a special moment for our sport but I’ve got mixed feelings,” said Igarashi, who grew up surfing at Tsurigasaki beach, the Olympic site located about 60 miles east of Tokyo. “It’s so hard to gather that into words. I’m proud of myself, and I was of proud myself even before this event, but it’s just been such a roller-coaster in the last four years on the road for the Olympics.”That homefield advantage proved helpful in the women’s event, too, as 20-year-old Amuro Tsuzuki of Japan also earned bronze after winning her heat against Caroline Marks of the United States.Owen Wright of Australia also won bronze, concluding an extraordinary comeback when he defeated top-ranked surfer Gabriel Medina.In 2015, Wright suffered a traumatic brain injury after being pounded by a wave in Hawaii. The accident left him fighting for his life but he came back to surfing after learning how to walk and talk again.“I’ve been through some bloody battles,” Wright said, “and all my close friends and family stood beside me and coming from that, I had this goal to stand here with a medal around my neck.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Female surfers overcome sexism's toll to earn Olympic berth

Female surfers overcome sexism's toll to earn Olympic berth

LEMOORE, CALIF. — Johanne Defay of France was devastated when the mega sponsor Roxy dropped her right before she became a pro surfer in 2014, shattering her confidence and threatening her career altogether.“They were just like ‘Oh, you don’t look this way, you know, for, like, pictures,” Defay said. “And I just felt like I was never doing enough or I wasn’t fitting in, in the way that they wanted for their brand.”Now, Defay is headed to the Tokyo Olympics for surfing’s debut at the Summer Games, buoyed by an upset win against reigning world champion Carissa Moore at the high-intensity Surf Ranch competition last month.Though there’s much excitement and renewed enthusiasm for the women’s game, years of objectification, pay disparities and an opportunity gap have taken their toll. Industry leaders from the professional World Surf League and the developmental USA Surfing say they’re committed to righting the wrongs that have long held female surfers back in the male-dominated sport.The mental, financial and logistical roadblocks for women in surfing date back centuries.Hawaiians who invented the sport treated it as an egalitarian national pastime that all genders, ages and social classes enjoyed, according to Isaiah Helekunihi Walker, a Hawaii surfing historian. But Christian missionaries who arrived on the island tried to ban surfing in large part because of nudity — surfing naked was common at the sports’ inception. Though locals largely defied the colonizers, female surfers saw their ranks shrink disproportionately.“When it comes to controlling nudity, it’s about controlling female bodies,” said Walker, also a BYU-Hawaii history professor.Even for Moore, the child prodigy who could beat the boys before growing up to be — at 18 years old — the youngest World Surf League champion in history, she’s said she’s also struggled with her body image. Moore is 28 now and has spoken openly about starving herself as a teenager, only to binge eat later, and once even trying to force herself to throw up.“Everyone had this idea of what a surfer girl should look like. And there were a lot of ‘hot lists’ or the ‘cutest surfer girl list,’” Moore said. “I never made them, but then you see who actually made them and you feel like: ‘Oh, I guess, like, that’s what I should look like.’”Modern day professional surfing in a previous iteration had a decentralized approach that left brand sponsors in charge of many of the competition logistics, which would vary widely from one event to another, said Greg Cruse, USA Surfing CEO. And though it wasn’t an official rule or standard, there was clearly a preference for the men’s game.Surfing schedules are determined in the morning based on what the ocean waves are like, and it was no secret that the boys’ and men’s competitions would be given the best surf conditions, usually in the morning. Female surfers took the scraps, if they were invited at all.“There’d be the event directors and they would kind of schedule things the way they wanted to schedule and there would be bias from the outdated patriarchy. It’s changed immensely,” Cruse said. “It took a while for the women to complain about it.”A turning point came in 2013, when new ownership took over the professional league and the rebranded WSL began to prioritize standardizing the competitions and rebuilding the women’s events, said Jessi Miley-Dyer, a retired pro surfer who now runs the WSL’s competition as senior vice president.In 2019, the WSL as the leaders of the $10 billion surfing industry also began offering equal prize money for all its events, making it one of the few professional sports leagues to achieve pay equity.“It was an important statement to make around the value of our athletes. More than anything, it speaks to the emphasis on women’s surfing. We believe men and women are valued the same,” Miley-Dyer said. “It’s the right thing to do.”The announcement was emotional for many, including Miley-Dyer. Back in 2006 when she won a pro event, she earned just $10,000 — a third of what the top male surfer took home.“I cried because it means so much,” Miley-Dyer said. “I had also retired, so it wasn’t something for me, but it felt something to me and so many people like me.”Next year will be the first time the WSL will include its women surfers at the famous Pipe Masters competition, allowing them the chance to ride the Banzai Pipeline in Oahu, Hawaii, considered by many the best waves in the world.The WSL has also committed to hosting the same number of events and in the same locations for both the men and women, though the competition at the highest level today still has twice as many male competitor spots — 36 — compared to the women’s game.In terms of skill and experience, the damage caused by decades of sexism has not yet been fully reversed.It used to be that girls could begin competitive surfing training at about 11 years old while boys began as early as 4, Cruse said, adding that USA Surfing has closed this experience gap.And surfboard makers, like many male leaders in the sport, used to believe that girls and women weren’t strong enough to paddle or ride powerfully enough to pull off airs, or aerial maneuvers, so they were given bigger surfboards that are physically easier to ride, but limited their ability to progress into more explosive moves.So while airs have for years become the gold standard in the men’s competition, it is rarely done by the top female surfers today. Moore, the U.S. surfer to beat at the Olympics, is among the first women to land an air during competition, a milestone she achieved just recently but has no doubt electrified the women’s game and its future.“They started demanding getting the same type of equipment that allows you to generate more speed and turn sharper and harder,” Cruse said. “Right now, there’s a group of girls coming up. The girls under 16 are better at airs than any of the women in the WSL. They already have the air game and it’s next level and there’s going to be a changing of the guard.”For Defay, she persevered during her first year without corporate backing. She remembers feeling humiliated hearing others take for granted their private car services arranged by their sponsors after Defay arrived on a two-hour bus ride in order to save money.She’s thankful fellow pro surfer Jeremy Flores helped sponsor her “insane” rookie season, as a nine-month season can cost as much as $80,000 in travel costs alone.Now, they’re equals, teammates in Japan on the French Olympic surfing team.The 27-year-old Defay’s journey to the pros has made her hungrier than ever to prove her talents and worth at the world’s most elite sporting event. And she’ll do it with the body she has learned to appreciate, regardless of how any sponsor may have judged her before.Though Roxy didn’t respond to requests for comment on Defay’s past sponsorship deal, the surfer declares this:“I like my shoulders now and my butt,” Defay said with a smirk. “It’s just what it is and what makes me surf this way, so I try to celebrate it.”————Follow Sally Ho on Twitter at http://twitter.com/—sallyho————More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics

Olympic surfing exposes whitewashed Native Hawaiian roots

Olympic surfing exposes whitewashed Native Hawaiian roots

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — For some Native Hawaiians, surfing’s Olympic debut is both a celebration of a cultural touchstone invented by their ancestors, and an extension of the racial indignities seared into the history of the game and their homeland.The Tokyo Summer Games, which open July 23, serve as a proxy for that unresolved tension and resentment, according to the ethnic Hawaiians who lament that surfing and their identity have been culturally appropriated by white outsiders who now stand to benefit the most from the $10 billion industry.“You had Native Hawaiians in the background being a part of the development of it and just not being really recognized,” said Isaiah Helekunihi Walker, a Hawaii historian and activist. “There’s an element of them taking over. That’s when there’s no more aloha.”The Indigenous people of Hawaii traditionally viewed the act of stylishly riding ocean waves on a board for fun and competition as a spiritual art form and egalitarian national pastime that connected them to the land and sea.White European settlers who first learned of the sport when they arrived to the island both vilified and capitalized on the sport. Christian missionaries disapproved of the nudity on display, yet white businessmen later ran a whites-only surf club on Waikiki beach.Today, white people are still seen as the leaders and authorities of the sport globally, as surfing’s evolution is now a legacy shaped by white perspectives: from practically Native Hawaiian birthright to censured water activity, and California counterculture symbol to global professional sports league.Imagine if the Hollywood version of yoga became an Olympic sport, and by default overshadowed its roots in India, whitewashing the original cultural flavor into a white Californian trope.“It’s the paradox and hypocrisy of colonization,” said Walker, a BYU-Hawaii history professor who is Native Hawaiian.White settlers first arrived on the island in the 1700s, bringing with them disease that nearly wiped out the Native Hawaiian population, conquest to take over the land and its bounty of natural resources, and racist attitudes that relegated the Indigenous population to second-class citizenship.Though it was three Native Hawaiian princes who first showed off surfing to the mainland in 1885 during a visit to Santa Cruz, California, white businessmen are credited with selling surfing and Hawaii as an exotic tourism commodity for the wealthy. That trajectory has since manifested into a professional sports league largely fronted by white athletes.But the Native Hawaiians never gave up their sport and by the 1970s, there was a full-blown racial clash around surfing with well-documented fights in the ocean. The issue pitted Native Hawaiians and some white residents who grew up among them against the white Californian and Australian surfers who sought to exclude locals from the world’s best waves on their very own turf.An infamous brawl involved a trash-talking Australian surfer named Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, who was battered and humbled by the locals. The surfing world’s reverence for Hawaii and Native Hawaiians was cemented. Bartholomew would go on to run the Association of Surfing Professionals, an earlier iteration of the current pro league.“I treaded lightly in light of what they went through because there was an internalization that this is something that was stolen from them,” said Richard Schmidt, who was among the white Californian pro surfers on the scene in that era. “You’re never a complete surfer until you prove yourself in Hawaii.”Yet critics say the business and branding aspect of the sport and lifestyle largely remained white-centered.“When surfing started to become really popular, that triggered money and that triggered business people and things we’d never thought we’d have to deal with as people who surf in Hawaii,” said Walter Ritte, a longtime Native Hawaiian activist. “There’s no doubt that the control is not here in Hawaii.”The effort to take back surfing’s narrative is why sovereignty activists applied for a Hawaii Kingdom national team to compete at the Olympics. Their longshot request hinges on the fact that they say there was no ratified treaty that ever formally dissolved Hawaii’s autonomy. The United States annexed Hawaii in 1898 after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by U.S.-backed forces in 1893.A statement from the International Olympic Committee, which has ignored the request, noted only that applicants must be an “independent state recognized by the international community.”This geopolitical dynamic will be on display when Carissa Moore and John John Florence are in the surf zone to compete for the U.S.Neither is eager to discuss their views on the matter but they are two of professional surfing’s biggest stars who have long competed under the Hawaii flag in the pro league, as the World Surf League recognizes Hawaii as a “sovereign surfing nation.” Moore as the reigning female world champion is also the only Olympic surfer who is ethnically Hawaiian.“The hurt and the wounds go back really far,” Moore said. “I usually compete under the Hawaii flag all year with the WSL…For me, that’s not a huge focus right now. I think that I can still represent both, even if I’m not wearing the flag on my sleeve. I’m wearing it on my heart.”Tatiana Weston-Webb, a white woman who grew up in Hawaii and will surf for her mother’s native Brazil at the Olympics, said Native Hawaiians deserve more recognition but rejected the idea that they are disrespected.“I don’t think that they’re being overshadowed,” Weston-Webb said. “It just depends on how you look at the situation.”Fernando Aguerre as president of the International Surfing Association, the Olympic governing body for surfing, pledged to honor Hawaii and Duke Kahanamoku, the godfather of modern surfing, during the Games. Like many surfing industry leaders, Aguerre, who is from Argentina, invokes the legend of Kahanamoku often, even noting that he named his son after the Native Hawaiian icon.Kahanamoku was an Olympic swimmer who won five medals and introduced the sport via surfing exhibitions in places like California, New Jersey, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. He lobbied the IOC at the 1912 Summer Games in Stockholm to include it in the Olympics, and was the ultimate waterman, whose legacy also includes popularizing flutter swimming kicks and spreading the concept of lifeguarding and water rescue to the masses.“Everything we do has a connection to Hawaii. I think it’s impossible to detach Hawaiianness from surfing,” Aguerre said. “The ocean doesn’t really care about hate, war or governments. Surfing is that way, too.”Didi Robello, a descendant of Kahanamoku, said none of his family members have been contacted to participate in any Olympic celebrations. He said his grand-uncle’s name and legacy are exploited, which has become a great source of pain for the family because the trademark rights to the Kahanamoku name are owned by outsiders.“We’re getting ripped off,” Robello said. “It’s embarrassing.”————Follow Sally Ho on Twitter at http://twitter.com/—sallyho———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Olympic surfing exposes whitewashed Native Hawaiian roots

Olympic surfing exposes whitewashed Native Hawaiian roots

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — For some Native Hawaiians, surfing’s Olympic debut is both a celebration of a cultural touchstone invented by their ancestors, and an extension of the racial indignities seared into the history of the game and their homeland.The Tokyo Summer Games, which open July 23, serve as a proxy for that unresolved tension and resentment, according to the ethnic Hawaiians who lament that surfing and their identity have been culturally appropriated by white outsiders who now stand to benefit the most from the $10 billion industry.“You had Native Hawaiians in the background being a part of the development of it and just not being really recognized,” said Isaiah Helekunihi Walker, a Hawaii historian and activist. “There’s an element of them taking over. That’s when there’s no more aloha.”The Indigenous people of Hawaii traditionally viewed the act of stylishly riding ocean waves on a board for fun and competition as a spiritual art form and egalitarian national pastime that connected them to the land and sea.White European settlers who first learned of the sport when they arrived to the island both vilified and capitalized on the sport. Christian missionaries disapproved of the nudity on display, yet white businessmen later ran a whites-only surf club on Waikiki beach.Today, white people are still seen as the leaders and authorities of the sport globally, as surfing’s evolution is now a legacy shaped by white perspectives: from practically Native Hawaiian birthright to censured water activity, and California counterculture symbol to global professional sports league.Imagine if the Hollywood version of yoga became an Olympic sport, and by default overshadowed its roots in India, whitewashing the original cultural flavor into a white Californian trope.“It’s the paradox and hypocrisy of colonization,” said Walker, a BYU-Hawaii history professor who is Native Hawaiian.White settlers first arrived on the island in the 1700s, bringing with them disease that nearly wiped out the Native Hawaiian population, conquest to take over the land and its bounty of natural resources, and racist attitudes that relegated the Indigenous population to second-class citizenship.Though it was three Native Hawaiian princes who first showed off surfing to the mainland in 1885 during a visit to Santa Cruz, California, white businessmen are credited with selling surfing and Hawaii as an exotic tourism commodity for the wealthy. That trajectory has since manifested into a professional sports league largely fronted by white athletes.But the Native Hawaiians never gave up their sport and by the 1970s, there was a full-blown racial clash around surfing with well-documented fights in the ocean. The issue pitted Native Hawaiians and some white residents who grew up among them against the white Californian and Australian surfers who sought to exclude locals from the world’s best waves on their very own turf.An infamous brawl involved a trash-talking Australian surfer named Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, who was battered and humbled by the locals. The surfing world’s reverence for Hawaii and Native Hawaiians was cemented. Bartholomew would go on to run the Association of Surfing Professionals, an earlier iteration of the current pro league.“I treaded lightly in light of what they went through because there was an internalization that this is something that was stolen from them,” said Richard Schmidt, who was among the white Californian pro surfers on the scene in that era. “You’re never a complete surfer until you prove yourself in Hawaii.”Yet critics say the business and branding aspect of the sport and lifestyle largely remained white-centered.“When surfing started to become really popular, that triggered money and that triggered business people and things we’d never thought we’d have to deal with as people who surf in Hawaii,” said Walter Ritte, a longtime Native Hawaiian activist. “There’s no doubt that the control is not here in Hawaii.”The effort to take back surfing’s narrative is why sovereignty activists applied for a Hawaii Kingdom national team to compete at the Olympics. Their longshot request hinges on the fact that they say there was no ratified treaty that ever formally dissolved Hawaii’s autonomy. The United States annexed Hawaii in 1898 after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by U.S.-backed forces in 1893.A statement from the International Olympic Committee, which has ignored the request, noted only that applicants must be an “independent state recognized by the international community.”This geopolitical dynamic will be on display when Carissa Moore and John John Florence are in the surf zone to compete for the U.S.Neither is eager to discuss their views on the matter but they are two of professional surfing’s biggest stars who have long competed under the Hawaii flag in the pro league, as the World Surf League recognizes Hawaii as a “sovereign surfing nation.” Moore as the reigning female world champion is also the only Olympic surfer who is ethnically Hawaiian.“The hurt and the wounds go back really far,” Moore said. “I usually compete under the Hawaii flag all year with the WSL…For me, that’s not a huge focus right now. I think that I can still represent both, even if I’m not wearing the flag on my sleeve. I’m wearing it on my heart.”Tatiana Weston-Webb, a white woman who grew up in Hawaii and will surf for her mother’s native Brazil at the Olympics, said Native Hawaiians deserve more recognition but rejected the idea that they are disrespected.“I don’t think that they’re being overshadowed,” Weston-Webb said. “It just depends on how you look at the situation.”Fernando Aguerre as president of the International Surfing Association, the Olympic governing body for surfing, pledged to honor Hawaii and Duke Kahanamoku, the godfather of modern surfing, during the Games. Like many surfing industry leaders, Aguerre, who is from Argentina, invokes the legend of Kahanamoku often, even noting that he named his son after the Native Hawaiian icon.Kahanamoku was an Olympic swimmer who won five medals and introduced the sport via surfing exhibitions in places like California, New Jersey, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. He lobbied the IOC at the 1912 Summer Games in Stockholm to include it in the Olympics, and was the ultimate waterman, whose legacy also includes popularizing flutter swimming kicks and spreading the concept of lifeguarding and water rescue to the masses.“Everything we do has a connection to Hawaii. I think it’s impossible to detach Hawaiianness from surfing,” Aguerre said. “The ocean doesn’t really care about hate, war or governments. Surfing is that way, too.”Didi Robello, a descendant of Kahanamoku, said none of his family members have been contacted to participate in any Olympic celebrations. He said his grand-uncle’s name and legacy are exploited, which has become a great source of pain for the family because the trademark rights to the Kahanamoku name are owned by outsiders.“We’re getting ripped off,” Robello said. “It’s embarrassing.”————Follow Sally Ho on Twitter at http://twitter.com/—sallyho———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports