Three and a half years ago, the International Olympic Committee added surfing to the Olympic program. The current surfing world champion, Italo Ferreira of Brazil, has commented on how the sport’s Olympic debut helps rehabilitate surfing’s image as being a sport for ‘bums’ and confers greater legitimacy on the sport. More parents are bringing their kids to surf schools so that they can practice a healthy sport.

However, there are some surfers who are upset with Olympic’s inclusion of surfing. They are resentful that the sport was “abandoning its nonconformist roots” and that its new-found mainstream nature would further crowd out the surf breaks.

Read the full article on Channel News Asia: With Olympics, world champ says surfing shreds image as sport for ‘bums’


What is the cultural impact of including surfing within the Olympic program? By debuting surfing in the next Olympic event, there would be much more attention and spotlight cast on the sport. This may also encourage more people to try on the sport and potentially take up lessons.

It is interesting that there is a particular subculture associated with surfing. When asked to picture the stereotypical surfer, most would come up with a certain manner of speaking, dressing and way of life. Since some surfers associate the activity as a form of non-conforming or as a matter of rebellion, the very idea of thinking of surfing as a sport can be repugnant for these surfers.

What happens when an underground activity becomes mainstream and part of internationally broadcast sports television? Would the surfer culture remain intact, or would it give way to the cult of other professional sports?

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. What do you think are your stereotypes of the surfing culture? Where do you think these stereotypes come from?
  2. Do you think that the surfing culture can remain intact given the sport’s inclusion in the Olympic Games? Why or why not?

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. ‘mainstream’: the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are shared by most people and regarded as normal or conventional
  2. ‘repugnant’: extremely distasteful; unacceptable