Surfing IS an Olympic Sport

I wrote the core of this post a few months ago. But, I have updated it with the news about The Olympics.

It was just as the idea of surfing in the Olympics was being floated.

Well, now we know …

Surfing WILL be in the Olympics in 2020

imageSurfing may also come to the prairies. What this could mean for you, for your community, for the surfing culture, for the hotels and other industries that stand to make a buck. Think “merch” for the culture and sponsorships aplenty. Surfing in the Olympics and on The Prairies could revive the surf industry in ways we have not considered yet and with a new group of customers. Think Millennials, Gen Z and The Alphas.

I expect a lot of advertisers will jump into the mix here --- hotels, clothing companies, cities that want to attract surf-dollars and many more.

Are Surfers the Ultimate Athletes?

Perhaps the Inland Surfers will find out that Surfers May Be the Best Athletes on the Planet (read this post about why this is true).

The world will be watching to see in 2020.

Will you watch surfing as an Olympic event?

With Kelly Slater's new device that might happen, but it seems they have chosen what I would prefer. A natural beach break. They have selected Chiba in Japan (on the coast, obviously)

Read More about Surfing in the 2020 Olympics:

You may see more “Inland Surfers” too

You may also start to see more "surfers" in your neighborhood. Unlike the FlowRider devices that you may have seen on cruise ships and water parks this innovation might bring more traditional surfing to the prairies. And possibly to the Olympic games too.

If you want to see Kelly Slater's new innovation in action watch the video.

Kelly's Wave from Kelly Slater Wave Co on Vimeo.

Surfing is a Culture

People want to be a part of the surfing lifestyle. They'll spend money to travel to far off places to experience the lifestyle. Even if they never get in the water. The surfing industry figured this out many years ago. Companies like Billabong, Quicksilver, O'Neill, Ripcurl, Volcom, RonJon and many others made sizable businesses out of the surfing lifestyle.

I expect other companies across different industries are ready to capitalize on the surfing lifestyle too. I think the Kelly Slater Wave Company may just have the innovation need to get mass retailers, hoteliers and other luxury brands to jump in (pun intended) to the future of inland surfing.

As I have written about before surfers just may be the best athletes in the world. Perhaps not ironically, the point of this post involves the challenges of "naturally occurring waves" and other conditions in the oceans.

Imagine the Possibilities

  • Imagine the corporate sponsorship opportunities
  • Imagine the "merch" opportunities.
  • Imagine having everyone in your town saying "dude"

Beyond the traditional surfing vendors ... who have struggled as a whole ... there are huge opportunities for many other companies to get involved. Everything from mass market retailers like Target to hoteliers like Marriott that can build, support and, of course, sponsor events. 

Just like with the Las Vegas hotels today ... you'll be able to rent a cabana "wave side" and be able to watch your significant other, your kids, or even the top pros ply their skills on a perfect wave.


  • Eco-Tourism without the carbon tax of a long flight to the tropics.
  • Surfing at high altitudes in places like Mexico City and Denver
  • Being able to say you've "Surfed Kansas"

Kelly Slater is a very smart guy. In addition to having the skills to be able to win an unprecedented 11 World Surfing titles he has also setup a business with merchandise (aka merch) in the form of all sorts of clothing, restaurants, and more. I think the "more" part is where Kelly Slater is in a great position to offer his wave pool services ... for a fee. Capitalism is OK! 

Beyond the obvious Hair Care, Sun Protection, and Surf Equipment vendors. All of which stand to make new equipment and sales into this burgeoning market. There is a whole new set of options coming into the forefront. A little like the beach volleyball craze of 20 or so years ago (I know they still have events, but they were a big deal a few years back) there are parallels to the Rise of Inland Surfing. There will be product tie-ins, cities and states can play a role, and communities can behind something that is generally just good clean fun.

Beyond the Obvious

Everything from bringing the surf culture to landlocked areas to developing new equipment, new types of contests, and new rules of engagement. There are other traditional water sports that often need the ocean (or at least a body of water) to encourage users and host events.

  • SUP - Stand Up Paddle boarding
  • Windsurfing - Bring in the big fans (it's been done before)
  • Spongeboards - They may have their own times for sessions
  • Skimboards - Have you see what they can do on a skimboard?

These are just a few ideas.

What ideas would you apply if you had access to a Perfect Wave?

  • Surf at night? Surf at Dawn? Surf without The Landlord?
  • Company events?
  • Logos on the waves and at the venue (as noted in the pic) - this is not a slight to Kelly Slater or the business he is building. Making surfing accessible is a noble cause and one that others businesses and people will pay to be a part of ...Ride That Wave!

Teach them Well

If they are smart they can extend the surf culture. By including lessons for surfing --- which should include everything from the obvious - how to stand, how to turn, how to duck dive. To the not so obvious, but extremely critical ... especially for those that want to take their "Inland Surfing" skills to the real ocean. Things like etiquette, wave selection (in the real ocean is very different than a perfect wave), where to paddle out,who to defer to (and why).

imageWho Remembers the movie North Shore? Where a surfer from a wave pool had to learn the hard way that the ocean (and the locals) are unforgiving.

What about the Olympics?

While I don't personally like the idea of the exact same wave every time this is what may be needed in order to get Surfing categorized as an Olympic sport. I was trying to think of other sports where the conditions are a variable as they can be in surfing. The only things I could come up with were skiing, snowboarding and rowing / canoeing. All water based sports that are done outdoors. But, even in snowboarding the condition of "the wave" is fixed - at least in terms of the shape. The snow, wind, sun, etc. can impact the run-to-run conditions.

I personally think wave selection is part of the definition of a true surfer. Knowing how to pick the right wave from the set based on tides, bottom conditions and many other factors that make surfing so unique. And to be honest, hard and somewhat inaccessible.

So, I think the way to get surfing into the Olympics is to make a standardized set of conditions. In this case the wave is the easiest factor to control. With the Kelly Slater Wave Company designed pool there is an advantage in that the pool can go to every city the Olympics are held. No longer is there a need to be close to the coast or to wait for just the right conditions.

I think we will see surfing in the Olympics. (Update: Now we KNOW we will)

Surfing the Prairies

I think we will also see surfing in The Prairies and other landlocked areas. The time is right. I predict the Kelly Slater Wave Company will do well here. So will a lot of other companies. I think Kelly Slater is smart enough to know that you cannot do it all. And, the good news is ... you don't have to. There is a market today. 

People want to get in on the Surf Culture. Companies will pay to be a part of the surf culture. Most important people will pay for be a part of the surf culture.

As for the Olympics ... Let the Games Begin!

For everyone else ...

Game on!  Surfs Up!!  Everyone in the Water!!!


Image Credits: Kelly Slater Wave Company
Thanks to my friend Joe for pointing out what Mr. Slater is up to and for a few of the ideas espoused here.


This is part of my on-going series of posts where I try to have a little fun and share a little of my insights on People, Process and Technology.

This is cross posted to LinkedIn here.


clip_image001Jeff is business advisor, mentor and community engagement expert. He has spent most of his career in the Enterprise Content Management industry. He brings over 20 years of Channel Sales, Partner Marketing and Alliance expertise to audiences around the world in speaking engagements and via his writing. He has worked for Microsoft, Kodak, and K2.

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@jshuey or connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+ He is active in the Microsoft Partner Community and is the co-founder and President of the IAMCP Seattle chapter.

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