Longboarding Could Be Included in the 2028 LA Olympics

Honolua Blomfield and Kai Sallas Win ISA World Longboard Championship
The beautiful surfing of Honolua Bloomfield was certainly on display at the recent ISA Event. Photo: Pablo Jimenez//ISA

Imagine the world’s best longboarders gliding down the point at Malibu, but instead of Malibu’s  typical Sunday afternoon summertime shit-show of drop ins and board traffic, just two surfers are in the water, and they’re surfing for Olympic medals. 

The IOC is currently mulling over a proposal by the International Surfing Association (ISA) to pair longboard to the already-approved shortboarding event at the LA 2028 Games. We’ll know longboard’s Olympic fate by the first quarter of 2025. 

When reached for comment, both LA 2028 and the IOC were careful not to show their cards. 

For LA28, the discipline program was approved by the IOC Executive Board on 13 October 2023, while the program of events and athlete quotas will be finalized after Paris 2024,” an IOC spokesperson told me via email.

LA28 was at least able to acknowledge that longboard had, in fact, been put forward, but not much more than that. 

“LA28 is aware of the application for longboarding’s inclusion that the ISA submitted to the IOC for review,” said Gemma Acheampong of LA 2028’s Communication’s team. “The number of potential new medal events put forward by an International Federation (IF) to the IOC is a confidential process managed by the IOC. LA28 is constantly monitoring all IF events across all sports in the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic sport program.”

I was particularly curious if the IOC and LA 2028 were watching the ISA’s recent longboard championships. The event featured 129 athletes from 39 countries (both records) and an impressive 48 percent female participation – nearly equal among the genders. Hawaiian longboard stars Honolua Blomfield and Kai Sallas took the gold medals in a pumping Salvadoran right point break. The script couldn’t have been written any better to impress Olympic decision makers, if they were paying attention. 

But I couldn’t get the IOC or LA 2028 to even admit that they tuned in for two minutes. The world of adding sports and allocating medal events in the Olympics is politically charged and sensitive given varying sports are vying for a limited number of athlete quotas. It’s understandable that they didn’t want to say anything remotely optimistic. 

Despite the conservative response from the Olympic entities, the always upbeat ISA President Fernando Aguerre is (unsurprisingly) optimistic. 

“I think longboard has a really good chance (of inclusion),” said Aguerre. “Our last event was great. Every year grows in quality, size, and participation. Gender participation was very close to 50/50.”

For the average surf fan reading this at home wondering how sports are included in the Olympic Games, it is admittedly confusing. Since Tokyo 2020 there hasn’t been one overarching, uniform process, but instead they have been taking it one edition of the Games at a time and allowing the host flexibility to expedite new sports onto the program. 

For example, the IOC fast tracked surfing, skateboarding, and sport climbing into Tokyo 2020 as part of its initiative to inject youth into the Olympics. The host, Tokyo 2020, put forth baseball/softball and karate to please the Japanese fans. Then Paris 2024 brought breaking (what you know as “break dancing”) into the fold, while dropping baseball and karate. Now, LA 2028 has axed breaking before it even got a chance to make a first impression, re-added America’s pastime, baseball/softball, and brought on cricket, flag football, lacrosse, and squash.

The youth sports – surfing, skateboarding, and sport climbing – are confirmed through 2028. And as far as new sports and disciplines are concerned, the list for LA 2028 is closed, which leads one to wonder how longboarding is still under consideration. The key is that longboard is not being classified as a different discipline as shortboarding, but instead it’s being classified as a different medal event. Therefore, as the IOC looks to divvy out the medal events among approved Olympic sports, the ISA is trying to let longboard ride the coattails of shortboard and slip into the Games – an advantage of already being an Olympic sport. 

“In the specific context of the Sport Program process, longboard is considered as a set of medal events, not a standalone discipline,” added Acheampong. “The key criteria for separating one discipline from another is whether it requires a standalone field of play or not (and not necessarily a separate athletes’ community). Therefore, the IOC review of the new longboard medal events and their potential inclusion is part of the ongoing process to be completed in March 2025.”

So, for those eager for an answer to longboard’s inclusion, be patient and check back in March. And while no one will disagree that Malibu would be the ideal longboard venue for LA 2028, the fact that it would need to coexist with shortboarding probably precludes the spot from being a potential venue. I can’t imagine LA 2028 would shell out the funds to create two separate surfing venues. Longboard would most likely have to share the venue with shortboard, which logic indicates will be either Trestles or Huntington Beach. However, after Paris 2024 put the surfing event on the other side of the world in Tahiti, it’s hard to rule out anything.

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