Tokyo Olympics surfing in review: Ferreira, Moore score golds in debut

Posted at 1:26 AM, Jul 31, 2021

Surfing made its Olympic debut in Tokyo, more than a century after Duke Kahanamoku first asked the International Olympic Committee to consider including the sport.

On Aug. 3, 2016, the IOC approved surfing (along with baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, and sport climbing) for inclusion at the games as part of an initiative that allows host cities to promote sports that are popular within their nation. As a result, the sports were only approved for the Tokyo Olympics, and not automatically added to future Olympic programs. 

The sport's inaugural Olympic contest, featuring 20 men and 20 women, did not disappoint.

FULL REPLAY: Men's & Women's Finals

Medal table

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Brazil 1 0 0 1
USA 1 0 0 1
Japan 0 1 1 2
South Africa 0 0 1 1
Australia 0 0 1 1


Australia's Owen Wright walked away with the first-ever medal in the sport, defeating Brazil's Gabriel Medina in the bronze medal match. Brazil's Italo Ferreira earned the first-ever gold after running away from Japan's Kanao Igarashi in an electric final. 

Ferreira, who is the reigning champion of the World Surf League, recovered from snapping his board early-on and posted wave high scores of 7.77 and a 7.37 for a combined 15.14, while Igarashi struggled to keep up. The silver medalist counted a 3.83 and a 2.77, combining for a 6.60.

Ferreira began paddling back to the shore with over a minute left as Igarashi was too far behind to best his score. The Brazilian was greeted at the beach by teammates who lifted him on their shoulders, carrying on a tradition that the winner's feet should not touch the sand. 

Americans John John Florence and Kolohe Andino had strong runs in Tokyo. The teammates and good friends advanced to the Round of 16, but ended up in a head-to-head matchup that saw Andino come out on top. Andino was eliminated by Igarashi in the quarterfinals. 

SEE MORE: Carissa Moore, Italo Ferreira become first-ever Olympic surfing champions

Gold: Italo Ferreira
Silver: Kanoa Igarashi
Bronze: Owen Wright

SEE MORE: Italo Ferreira wins first Olympic surfing gold medal


The United States' women put on a show in Tokyo. 

Teenager Caroline Marks blazed through the first few rounds with sky-high scores, including a 15.33 in Round 3. But she was later upset by Japan's Amuro Tsuzuki in a low-scoring bronze medal match (6.80 to 4.26). 

The U.S. got a medal nonetheless — and the gold at that. No. 1 seed Carissa Moore, the favorite from the get-go, came out on top in the gold medal match, defeating South Africa's Bianca Buitendag 14.93 to 8.46. The 28-year-old four-time world champion rode a celebratory wave on her way back in to shore, meeting her team for an emotional celebration. 

Gold: Carissa Moore
Silver: Bianca Buitendag
Bronze: Amuro Tsuzuki

SEE MORE: U.S. surfing star Carissa Moore wins first Olympic title


For every time a surfing star landed a jaw-dropping maneuver, there was a corresponding wipeout. 

SEE MORE: WATCH: The surfing wipeouts of the Tokyo Olympic Games

Surfing to return in Paris

If you liked what you saw in Tokyo, you're in luck: surfing will return to the Olympic program in 2024. 

In February 2019, the Paris organizing committee recommended that skateboarding, surfing, and sport climbing, in addition to breakdancing, be included in the 2024 Paris Olympics. In December of that year, the committee announced that it was hoping to hold the 2024 Olympic surfing competition in Tahiti (one of France's territories), which is just under 10,000 miles away from Paris.