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California Surfers Divided Over Sport's Inclusion In Olympics


The Olympics start tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro. But the world is already planning for the next Summer Games, Tokyo 2020. And the International Olympic Committee just announced that Tokyo will feature five new sports, including for the first time ever, surfing.


We caught up with a few surfers in Los Angeles to see what they thought.

DAVID HIRSCH: Wow, that's gnarly.

MCEVERS: That's 24-year-old David Hirsch. He was decked out in his wet suit waxing his board. And he was about to head down to the ocean when we broke the news.

HIRSCH: Like, I'm not, like, waving, like, a surf flag, but it would just be cool for people to be able to see something new, some different sport that they weren't exposed to before or something.

CORNISH: Gaby Herbst was packing up her board and strapping it to the top of her car. She's a high school teacher. And she has time to surf while on summer break.

MCEVERS: And even though you might not think of Japan when you think of surfing, she says it's a good choice.

GABY HERBST: I think it's a fun place for it to start because internationally, I wouldn't say that it's the biggest scene. But they do have really good waves out there.

CORNISH: She is a little skeptical that the biggest names in surfing will come out to the Olympics, though, since it's around the same time of professional surfing competitions.

HERBST: Like, I don't know who's going to give up, you know, all those points for missing out on a comp and all that money to go compete in the Olympics.

MCEVERS: Then there's Matt Muzio. He grew up in Hawaii and started surfing at the age of 12, about 40 years ago.

CORNISH: And he's basically over it.

MATT MUZIO: They're about 50 years late.

MCEVERS: Fifty years late and for all the wrong reasons.

MUZIO: I think the whole thing's a joke. It has nothing to do with surfing. It has everything to do with money. Surfing's a soul sport. It's about going out in the morning and surfing. What are the Olympics going to do for surfing?

CORNISH: Lauren Bos was coming out of the water when we spoke to her. She and her friends have been talking about the Olympics news since yesterday.

LAUREN BOS: Yeah, it was, like, all my girlfriends that we all surf, and our group text is called wave babes. They're all still in the water, actually, yeah (laughter).

MCEVERS: She just started surfing two years ago, and she's hooked.

BOS: I mean, it sounds very hippy, but, like, I caught the stoke. I know that sounds really silly, but, I mean, it really is, like, once you start, you can't stop. And it's all you think about. And you watch videos and you watch other surfers. And you start recognizing all the big names and follow their Instagram accounts and just start recognizing good style when you see it.

CORNISH: She's excited to see some of the big names compete. But one downside, all the Olympic attention might bring more people to her favorite surf spots. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.