Through the 2023 ISA World Surfing Games, eight competitors qualified for the surfing event at the Olympic Paris 2024, capturing two spots each from France, Japan, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Based on the competition’s outcomes, four male and four female surfers from each of the four continents—Africa, Asia, Europe, and Oceania—were awarded tickets to the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.
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The top-ranked male and female athletes from Africa were Jordy Smith and Sarah Baum of South Africa.
At least two surfers each from France, Japan, and New Zealand will be present in Paris 2024.
Kanoa Igarashi of Japan won the men’s spot for Asia and will now have the opportunity to expand his collection of Paris Olympic medals. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, he won silver. After just making it into her home Games three years ago, Igarashi’s colleague Shino Matsuda took the women’s spot for Asia.
The European places were claimed by French surfers Kauli Vaast and Vahine Fierro. They both hail from Tahiti and are expected to be a powerful force on the iconic Teahupo’o wave. Billy Stairmand, an Olympian from Tokyo 2020, has claimed the men’s spot for Oceania, while Saffi Vette, another member of his team, will be making her Olympic debut.
The eight additional surfers who have qualified for Tahiti through the World Championship Tour join Tatiana Weston-Webb of Brazil, Brisa Hennessy of Costa Rica, Johanne Defay of France, and Teresa Bonvalot of Portugal.
Learn more about the surfers that earned a spot in the 2023 ISA World Surfing Games and listen to their initial responses.
South African Jordy Smith: A second opportunity
Jordy Smith, a surfer renowned for his strength on the waves and daring aerials, had also earned a spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. But a month before the Olympics, he tore his LCL, and he ultimately decided not to take part.
Smith, though, fought valiantly in El Salvador to secure a second ticket to the Games because his desire to compete at the Olympics was as strong as ever.
He said to Olympics.com that missing (Tokyo) 2020 “definitely hurt” and “made me strive more now to be able to get there for Paris 2024. Yes, there are ups and downs in life, but the true narrative is how you handle them and how you recover.
South African Sarah Baum: In the shadow no longer
Baum was a spectator at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, just like her teammate Smith.
Baum was even keener to show off her skills because Bianca Buitendag, a childhood training companion, was in the final lineup and went on to win the silver medal for South Africa.
With Bianca, I learned how to surf. We always imagined she and I would be on this on the Championship Tour and maybe at the Paris Olympic 2024 at the same time, Baum told the Olympics. I still feel like I deserve that. We are constantly neck and neck in every event. For more about Olympic Opening Ceremony Tickets.
Compared to when I was younger, I have significantly matured. Everything seems to be falling into place, so I think now is the perfect time to act.
New Zealander Billy Stairmand, second Olympics
Billy Stairmand is the lone competitor who also competed at Tokyo 2020, where he finished ninth, of the competitors who have thus far qualified for the 2023 ISA World Surfing Games.
The fact that Stairmand was one of the 40 surfers competing in the first Olympic surfing competition, however, did not dampen his enthusiasm for winning a trip to Olympic Paris 2024 or his desire to take on one of the world’s most challenging waves.
The waves will be quite different from those in Japan. Stairmand told Olympics.com, I’m thinking of considering flying to Tahiti to get some training done and acclimatize to the bigger waves. It will be terrifying. It is intended to be extremely large and a deep reef emerges from shallow water. There’s a huge, vast ocean out there.
New Zealand’s Saffi Vette: A childhood fantasy
Saffi Vette’s boyhood desire of attending the Paris Olympics 2024 came true.
The 21-year-old was especially gratified to be able to reverse the outcome on the same waves two years later after missing out on qualifying for Tokyo 2020 in the 2021 ISA World Surfing Games, which were also hosted in El Salvador.
Tokyo looked incredible, and it was the first time that surfing had been included in the Olympics. This gave me even more motivation to compete and earn a spot in the Olympics 2024.
Since I was a young child, I have imagined competing in the Olympics. Having surfing in the Olympics is a great, huge chance for us. I grew up watching the Olympics in every single sport that I enjoyed playing.
Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi: Silver medalist goes for gold
When local hero Kanoa Igarashi hopped aboard his surfboard in Tokyo in 2020, all eyes were on him. Igarashi didn’t give in to pressure and produced the medal that was expected of him, a silver one, but the ambitious surfer is still not content.
Igarashi, who has Olympic gold in his sights, is on course to complete his goal, win the 2022 ISA World Surfing Games to secure Team Japan’s additional male quota, and claim his individual spot at the 2023 Games in El Salvador.
Igarashi expressed his gratitude for the distinction of holding the office. Tokyo feels like it was only yesterday; I have such wonderful memories of that occasion. My life was forever changed by the Olympics, so it means the world to me to be in a position to go back there and represent my nation while trying to win another medal.
Japan’s Shino Matsuda: Recovering from Missing the home games
Matsuda did not qualify for Tokyo 2020, unlike Igarashi, and did not qualify for the ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador in 2021.
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However, the young star beat out her more seasoned compatriots, including bronze medalist Amuro Tsuzuki from Tokyo 2020, to win the women’s quota for Asia at the 2023 Games.
When I lost the chance to compete at the Tokyo Olympics the previous time I was in El Salvador, I was quite unhappy, Matsuda said. It was a very terrible experience, but I managed to turn it into a positive by thinking, I will definitely qualify for the next Olympics, so now I think it was a wonderful experience.
France’s Kauli Vaast: Unafraid on Teahupo’o
Even though Kauli Vaast is still a rising star in the world of surfing, the finest surfers in the world will be keeping an eye on the 21-year-old when it comes to Teahupo’o.
Vaast has been surfing since he was a little child and was born and reared just a few minutes from one of the most famous waves in the world. When he received a wildcard to the Tahiti Pro in 2022, he made headlines when he surfed into the final and lost against Brazil’s Miguel Pupo, who is ten years older.
After earning his ticket to Paris 2024, Vaast exclaimed, this is something really significant for me. I put a lot of effort into qualifying one day because I really wanted to go to the Olympics in my own country. I exerted every effort to succeed, and now I’m in. I’m overjoyed.
France’s Vahine Fierro: Welcoming Visitors to Tahiti
Vahine Fierro from France lives atop the famous Teahupo’o wave, which most surfers view with apprehension. Her home island of Huahine, where she was born and reared, is fewer than 200 kilometers from the Olympic surfing location.
The 23-year-old surfer is as enthusiastic about bringing the world surfing community there as she is about the potential of winning an Olympic gold medal on home waters.
Home is where the Olympics are, Fierro declared. I’m overjoyed to compete in the Olympics Paris 2024 for the first time at home. Better things couldn’t have come my way.
The locals there will put on a big performance with a lot of power, grace, and kindness as well. No one will truly comprehend how amazing a place is, in my opinion, unless they actually visit it and experience it in person.
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