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Do Climbing and Surfing Belong in the Olympics?

The answer depends on who you ask.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

The International Olympic Committee recently announced that surfing and climbing (along with skateboarding, baseball/softball, and karate) will be added to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

If you ask professional athletes, many of them will tell you the IOC made a mistake. They have concerns that this style of competition is not in line with the true values of climbing and surfing, that it takes away from the spiritual aspect and eliminates their status as outsiders in the broader sports world. The second concern is not far off from the first but from more of a logistics standpoint. What makes climbing so exciting is the interaction with Mother Nature. Climbing thousands of feet on a granite wall in Yosemite Valley cannot happen in the controlled competitions in the Olympics. When it comes to the surfing, competitions usually have about a month blocked out when conditions are meant to be ideal. With the hard dates of the Olympics, surfers won't have that luxury and looking ahead to Tokyo, conditions are predicted to be thigh-to-chest-high (AKA not ideal).

Other pro athletes, like surfer Kelly Slater and climber Shauna Coxsey, are more excited about the prospect of their sports' inclusion and for competing in Tokyo themselves. There are undoubtedly major benefits for each sport like greater exposure, better sponsorship deals, and overall growth, but there are also potential pitfalls.

Leaders of the organizations that run the competitions like CEO of USA Climbing, Kynan Waggoner are thrilled about the decision, “I cannot adequately express how important this is to the growth and development of the sport of competition climbing.” The IOC is also excited at the prospect of bringing in more young people to watch the Olympics. 

We've heard from the pros and from the governing bodies, but what do you think? Are you stoked to watch climbing and surfing in the Olympics in 2020?

Cover photo: Cameron Gardner

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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