Kelly Slater‘s push to compete in the first Olympic surfing competition at age 48 took a step forward Monday when he was named to the U.S. team for the World Surfing Games, which will take place Sept. 7-15 in Miyazaki, Japan.
Surfers hoping to compete in the 2020 Olympics must first compete in the WSG either this year or next year unless they’re injured or ill.
The U.S. team also includes the top-ranked man and woman in the World Surf League: Kolohe Andino and Carissa Moore.
Three-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore of Hawaii wins the 2019 Corona Open J-Bay after winning the final at Supertubes on July 19, 2019 in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. (Photo by Pierre Tostee/WSL via Getty Images)
Moore also has an impressive resume, winning the WSL title as a teenager in 2011 and doing it again in 2013 and 2015.
The three-man team also includes Conner Coffin. Two-time WSL champion John John Florence is out with an ACL injury.
Courtney Conlogue and 17-year-old Caroline Marks join Moore on the women’s team. Conlogue was second in the tour standings behind Moore in 2015 and was runner-up again the next year.
Olympic qualification is based mostly on WSL rankings, with the top 10 eligible men and top eight eligible women (maximum two per country) automatically qualifying. But competing in the World Surfing Games is mandatory, per the International Surfing Association’s criteria:
“The Surfer must make him or herself available for their respective national team for participation in the 2019 and 2020 ISA World Surfing Games; and (t)he Surfer must accept the nomination of his or her NF to take part, and must actually take part, in any or all of the above ISA World Surfing Games.”
Qualifying from the United States, one of the sport’s major powers, will be difficult because of the two-surfer maximum. Barring a catastrophic run of results, the U.S. qualifiers will come from the WSL rankings at the end of the year.
In the current men’s rankings, Andino is first, Florence is third despite his injury, Slater is eighth, and Coffin is tied for 12th. Seth Moniz is 14th. Moore leads the women’s rankings, with Lakey Peterson fourth, Marks fifth and Conlogue sixth. Malia Manuel is seventh.
Qualification for the WSG was based on WSL rankings through June 9 (four events) this year, which is why Peterson was not named to the team. But qualification for next year’s WSG will be based on the year-end standings this year, so whoever finishes first or second among U.S. surfers this year will make the Olympic team as long as he or she accepts the invitation to the WSG.
WSG results do not count toward WSL standings.
For countries that don’t hit the maximum number of Olympic berths through the WSL standings, the WSG this year and next will be two of the alternate pathways to the Games.
Though Miyazaki is hosting the WSG, it will not be the venue for the 2020 Games. Surfing’s Olympic debut will take place at Shidashita Beach, a 750-mile drive from Miyazaki.