Brazilian Italo Ferreira and American Carissa Moore became the first-ever Olympic champions in surfing on Tuesday with final victories at the Tokyo Games.
Ferreira, world tour champion in 2019, thrashed his Japanese opponent Kanoa Igarashi 15.14 points to 6.60 while Moore beat Bianca Buitendag of South Africa 14.93-8.46.
“It’s one of the best days of my life for sure,” said Ferreira, while Moore said she was “super blessed, super fortunate. It’s been an incredible experience.”
Surfing was one of four new sports introduced this edition by the International Olympic Committee to help attract a more youthful audience to the Games.
Skateboarding proved an immediate hit with two Japanese talents producing spectacular shows on the street course to take gold but surfing could prove trickier for fans to love.
Even with issues over weather, which prompted organizers to bring forward the finals by a day, ignored, non-experts may struggle to adapt to the technical nature of the scoring.
Five judges score performances on the waves out of 10 and, after the best and worst for each trick are removed, the two highest average scores are combined.
But in the choppy waters of Tsurigasaki Beach there were still spectacular moves from Ferreira after his board broke on the first wave of the final, though a frustrated Igarashi was unable to properly catch a wave to make a serious contest.
“I was super confident,” said Ferraira. “When I broke a board I was like, ‘let’s get on the beach and get another board, go back and try again’. And that’s what I did.”
The four-time world tour champion Moore from the surfing hot spot of Hawaii also dominated the women’s final though Buitendag fought back to make the score respectable.
Moore paid tribute to fellow Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swimming champion who developed the sport of surfing in the 20th century.
“Before I came (here), I actually watched a documentary of Duke, just learning about his life, how he lived with the aloha spirit, and how many people he touched,” she said.
“This was his dream, to have surfing in the Olympics. I hope I made him and my people proud.”
The first surfing medal went to Australia’s Owen Wright, who claimed bronze by beating Brazil’s two-time world champion Gabriel Medina by a fraction, 11.97-11.77.
The Australian suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during training in 2015.
“I feel like I’m on a cloud,” said Wright. “Apart from being the first surfer to win a medal in the Olympics, I’ve also had my personal journey and my own personal battle.
“What I’ve been through to get here … I couldn’t have done it without my friends and family, and without the Olympic coaches and the staff.
“They really helped me to get to 100 per cent and get through my recovery from that TBI. That’s basically why I’m standing here.”
Japan’s Amuro Tsuzuki the beat American Caroline Marks 6.80-4.26 to win the women’s bronze.