Tokyo 2020: Surfers’ prayers answered as typhoon sends perfect waves

Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi just misses out on gold in surfing finals at Tsurigasaki beach

Silver medallist Kanoa Igarashi from Japan during the Men’s Surfing semi-final at  Tsurigasaki Beach on Tuesday. Photograph:  Nic Bothma/EPA

Silver medallist Kanoa Igarashi from Japan during the Men’s Surfing semi-final at Tsurigasaki Beach on Tuesday. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

 

Some Olympians hope and pray against the wind and the wild, and others pray for exactly that, such as those surfers I’m watching very closely down along the cove at Tsurigasaki Beach, in Chiba Prefecture, about 100km east of Tokyo.

I’m not there, though; I’m watching on one of the TV monitors that hang on the walls throughout the main press centre. It looks no less and no more spectacular, knowing a little about what a swell like that must mean to surfers all around the world.

Dare we say perfectly timed too, the typhoon that turned into the tropical storm Nepartak making landfall in Japan on Tuesday, just in time for the surfing finals.

There were other things that some of the surfers prayed for too, as our kind hosts Japan won silver first thanks to Kanoa Igarashi in the men’s competition and then Amuro Tsuzuki grabbing bronze in the women’s event.

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Surfing paradise

Have you seen the pictures? It was a surfing paradise, I reckon, Igarashi – who learned his surfing trade in California – earning Japan one medal they wanted, and giving the sport here all that it craved.

“Today is one of those days when it’s man against ocean, more so than competing against your competitor, but that’s what makes it fun,” Igarashi said afterwards.

Tsurigasaki, by the way, was Igarashi’s father’s home surfing beach long before the sport was ever considered for the Olympic programme. The 23-year-old Igarashi missed his chance to win a first surfing gold medal in Olympic history, this being all new in 2021. Still, he came away with silver after being beaten by the series of wave riders that belonged to Brazil’s Italo Ferreira.

Ferreira, the reigning world champion, won 15.14 to 6.60 in the two-person final. He scored a 7.77 on his fifth effort and backed it up with a score of 7.37, with three minutes to go.

“It’s super hard out there, but I knew that there was a lot of opportunities around,” Ferreira later said, winning relatively easily despite breaking his board on his first wave, later paddling back to shore with arms raised as if giving thanks to the ocean.

Earlier, in the women’s surfing finals, Japan’s Amuro Tsuzuki also made the podium with a 2.54-point win over American Caroline Marks in the bronze medal heat. Both surfers took only four waves each, though Tsuzuki’s second-best score was only 1.80.

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