Perfect Swell’s Japanese tube-tub deserves a Gold Medal.
That's right; I think the Olympics should take place in a wave pool. The sight of that headline will make many of the purists among us sick with disgust, but you have to hear me out. This comes after the release of footage of Perfect Swell's new Japanese wave pool, which allows surfers to get barrelled, lay down a few turns, and then launch a hefty punt. Scheduled to be used as a training facility for the Japanese Olympic team, the pool in Shizunami is arguably the most dynamic and inspiring wave pool we have seen yet. The short clips show a decent size wave that offers more variety than other artificial set-ups, with a tube section and a proper ramp for the best in the world to go gymnastic on. Not to mention, each wave isn't quite the same, adding a degree of adaptability and ocean-like-nous to the competition hustle – all good features for viewers.
Now, I'm not a massive fan of wave pools in general. Sure, they are entertaining for the odd 15-second IG clip or two. However, when it comes to contests (Surf Ranch) I'm not watching. I, along with what seems like the majority of true surf fans, perceive wave pool contests to be boring, predictable, and repetitive. If the Olympics were to take place in Hawaii or South Africa or any location with consistent, half-decent waves, I would have a completely different opinion. However, the Olympic venue for surfing – Shidashita beach, Chiba – is home to some pretty bottom of the barrel waves most of the time (typhoon swells excluded); ask any of the QS grinders who have slugged it out in ankle-high wind slop out there, and they'll tell you, the waves are often shit.
The Olympics already make surfing seem more mainstream and homogenised, so, if you are going down that path why not go all out and host it in a wave pool? A wave pool makes sense when it comes to the Olympics. Of the 33 sports taking place in Japan; surfing is one of three currently being held in a natural environment, with the other two being rowing and sailing. Even the canoe slalom will be in an artificial waterpark. The Olympics has a habit of taking sports out of their natural environment, so why not do the same for surfing? The average, ill-informed Olympic viewer with no surf knowledge will not appreciate surfing in the ocean – particularly not two-foot-onshore Shidashita beach. They won't respect the unpredictability, luck, wave selection, and nail-biting finishes that we surfers relish; They want to see surfers do big jumps on ramps like all the other board sports the Olympics will host. Obviously, it’s too late to make a Tokyo shift-of-venue right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an Olympic Dream.