Elite Surfers Sure to Make Waves at Tokyo Olympics

Surfing has always been a big part of the Bay Area sporting scene, especially with the Mavericks competition, and a year from now it will take the world's biggest sporting stage at the Tokyo Olympics.

Two local big wave surfers hoping to compete in the games say it's a huge leap for the sport. Grant Washburn and Bianca Valenti agree it will be quite a ride.

Recently, Washburn, an elite surfer with the distinction of competing in every single Mavericks Big Wave Surf Contest featuring 40-50 foot waves, enjoyed watching his daughter surf at Ocean Beach.

"There she goes. She caught one on the short board," he said, chuckling.

Washburn, who is also a filmmaker, says the Olympics will be different and compelling.

"Japan, this time of year, is typically not looking at giant surf," he said. "So it’ll probably be more akin to what most people experience at the beach in most parts of the world.

"So the level of surfing is like gymnastics," Washburn continued. "They’re doing crazy stunts. It’s amazing balance. And a really wide talent pool internationally. So the best of the best are going to be there. It’s pretty fun to watch."

Valenti, a world champion big wave surfer, also is excited about the Olympics.

"Surfing is a dance," she said. "And the wave always leads.

"I would say female competitors tend to have more of a certain gracefulness," she added, "whereas the men are kind of more aggressive."

Valenti says the timing is perfect with the big wave World Surf League wiping out the gender pay gap.

"So I think that should be a really cool highlighted feature of the Olympics," Valenti said. "Saying, 'Hey, we get to bring in surfing, and it’s the first international sport to offer equal pay for men and women.'"

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