Olympic surf forecast

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

In just over a year's time the best athletes in the world, surfer's included, will be saying sayonara to the Games of the XXXII Olympiad. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics begin on the 24th July with the closing ceremony just over two weeks later on the 9th August.

Surfing, of course, is part of the roster and it's been alotted an eight day window to run the four day event. The window is the 26th July to the 2nd August.

Now, much has been said about the quality of surf the five ring circus can expect, it's high summer after all, and after ditching the wavepool the organisers have no safety net. But what does anyone outside of Japan really know about the consistency of Shidashita Beach?

Located in Chiba Prefecture, Shidashita is at the far southern end of a 50km sandy stretch that faces southeast into the Pacific Ocean. The 'Shida' end has many rockwalls set perpendicular to the beach to halt erosion, around which sandbanks build up.

'Shida' showing some form off the southern rockwall

The expectation is that the North Pacific will be quiet so we went back through six years of data, to see if that was the case for the 26th July to 2nd August. This is what we found:

2014: Very small waves during the early part of the window are offset by a huge 5m south-southeast typhoon swell right at the end of the period.

2015: Very small mid-period south swell for the entire window.

2016: Mostly small easterly trade-swell ahead of a large south-southeast swell that built to 3.5m at the end of the waiting period.

2017: Very busy year. The waiting period began with a big east-southeast groundswell that built to 3.3m, which was quickly backed up by a moderate to large south-southeast swell, and the window closed with a monstrous 10m(!) typhoon swell out of the southeast.

2018: This year had a big mix of swells - all mid-size but of varying directions - for the start of the period but they all faded away to a small background easterly trade swell.

2019: Six of the eights days were very small, but then it jumped up to 3m from the south-southeast for the end of the period.

Is it possible to discern a pattern from that information? Admittedly, it's more active than expected, so there appears a good chance the Games will get waves, but the next question is what sort of waves? With everything from languid trade-swell to 10m typhoon swell, all breaking over shifting sandbanks, the surfers are gonna need a broad-spectrum quiver.

The surest thing is that the Olympic surfers will be sent out in a range of conditions, none of which will stack up against the perfection of the wavepool, yet there's also an argument that the fairest way to crown a winner in a one-off event is to have them compete in a wide mix of conditions.

Though I doubt the non-surfing viewers will agree.


davetherave's picture
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davetherave commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 5:11pm

seeing as though we are having a punt at conditions, Nostrilramous Ignoramous, the sumo surfer's step step stepup brother predicts, the following;
gary g goodvibes, nicknamed the captain from jamaica to win gold, pablo astro escobar from colombia to win silver and houly hash doullie hashtag hash tomfoolery from colombia to win bronze. surf will range from being wet and flat, to wet and small and wet and bigger than small. yes, nor nor westers tend to send us sth gc locals a bit silly but nostrilramous ignaramous will guide u down the right path even though he get's lost with a gps. bloody technology.


davetherave's picture
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davetherave commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 5:16pm

of course the wonderful houly hash doullie hashtag hash tomfoolery is from morocco. bless him. sorry houly, your hashtag snuck up on me.


dastasha's picture
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dastasha commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 6:48pm

Also we need to consider sticker placement weighting in the judging criteria. How's the houlie's hairstyle, does he have any form?

It will be hard to stop the Captain... he really knows how to hit those switchfoot slashback washslides...

greyhound's picture
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greyhound commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 6:56pm

I don’t get the surfing in the olympics thing. Throughout the year in a variety of waves, the CT decides the real world champ. They can then drape themselves in their countries flag.

Timmy 56's picture
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Timmy 56 commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 7:13pm

Should be treated with the same contempt that male golfers and tennis players give the olympics, I'm gonna give it equal status as a wqs 6000.

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Smorto commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 10:09am

Nadal, Federer and Djoko are all recent medal winners for olympic tennis. Its hardly contempt when three of the greatest ever are competing for medals.

Might not be on par with a WSL world title but I know what the answer would be if you ask any CT surfer if they'd rather win a QS6000 or an olympic gold medal.

Surfing (whether certain people like it or not) is a genuine sport that people devote their lives to competing in. Why shouldn't they have the opportunity to be recognised at sport's highest level of competition?

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 4:48pm

Yeah but wasn't the original idea more for those who don't have full on professional sport framework like pole vault, sprints, long jump, swimming, etc. Tennis, golf, basketball have heaps of outlets and are constantly on our screens and get paid a monty for it, for many of sports this is as good as it gets, which isn't the case with surfing. It isn't the highest level of competition for Tennis, golf, basketball and surfing. Yeah of course the competitors want another medal but I reckon it is a hollow one.

Timmy 56's picture
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Timmy 56 commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 5:23pm

I'm not gonna argue with you, perhaps contempt was the wrong word, fully professional sports like golf and tennis etc, do not work in an Olympic games environment, I guess time will tell with surfing.

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Smorto commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 5:52pm

Yeah no worries I hear your point and no argument needed. I guess my point was that what athlete wouldn't want an olympic medal. So I just thought contempt was probably the wrong word and the comparison of an olympic medal to a mid tier QS event was probably off the mark.

Also I dont disagree with both your and Malma's comment that the olympics is geared toward sports that dont get the mainstream recognition and sponsorship money.

But basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, snowboarding etc. are all in similar positions so whats the big deal if surfing and skateboarding also get a crack at the olympics?

I know I'll be watching and I bet most of the haters wont be able to resist checking in on it also.

shoredump's picture
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shoredump commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 7:27pm

I hope it pumps. NYC2.0

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Westofthelake commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 7:54pm

"We're testing our new 365 day forecast!"

Gold medal headline.

If the test works will it be included in the Swellnet Gold Super Deluxe subscription option?

davetherave's picture
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davetherave commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 7:50pm

datasha, i was speaking to houly the doullie the other day and spoke to him about image and maybe seeing a barber for the olympics. unfortunately he started ranting about ali baba and a lost camel and a curse to all alley barbers. it just so happens my barber for many years was called the alley barber so i went and spoke to dick, and he said it was along standing problem with a friend of a friend also called dick, with a last name of head who wanted to surf the great inland sea and stole a bunch of camels in the middle of a storm swell that pumped from alice springs to albury wodonga and was ridden by one of the runaways calling himself caml.
but anyway houly the doullie was last sighted deep inside a namibian womb reciting rumi poetry and with a japanese language book in one hand dreaming of being zen again in his acceptance speech and medal ceremony. meanwhile the captain was being the captain and well, just give him the gold medal now.


zenagain's picture
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zenagain commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 7:58pm

I'm staying well away from that circus Dave.

As an aside, before i left Australia my last barbers name was Tony.


davetherave's picture
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davetherave commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 8:13pm

really mate, i thought you were presenting the medals? wasn't stefan's name tony? 100 per cent jokin zen. be well brutha.


greyhound's picture
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greyhound commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 9:46pm

Trueblue basher still in the lead,
Followed closely by Dave the rave.

Lanky Dean's picture
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Lanky Dean commented Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019 at 11:01pm

Cool, there is a good chance for some typhoon swell waves .

jocabo's picture
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jocabo commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 4:50am

Not a bad idea to look at past conditions to gauge future conditions, but why not look at a longer data set and do some proper statistics? Quite easy to access 40+ year hindcast data (ECMWF or NOAA) and do what needs to be done...

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 6:52am

data sets probably too stochastic to be of much predictive use.

Lanky Dean's picture
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Lanky Dean commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 9:23am

You will actually be surprised to find out that , Quik contacted surfline and asked them to review all previous years conditions for NYC 2011 they came up with that week in September as being most consistent.
They gambled , it payed off.
Tahiti runs in August after they did the data count also.
It used to run in early may.
It happens a lot.
Same with a lot of the search events I.e. San Francisco used previous years data to gauge the best two weeks .

davetherave's picture
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davetherave commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 7:36am

thanks greyhound, that's the bodysurfers winning gold and silver.


zenagain's picture
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zenagain commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 7:48am

'stochastic'- great word, had to look that one up.


memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 4:51pm

Me too.

radiationrules's picture
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radiationrules commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 10:14am

it's exciting that your data has uncovered a much higher probability of decent waves than I expected. it might still be a yawn; but as with all experiments, worth a try.

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 12:08pm

Stu's holding out as a test Olympic Surf comp was held for one year milestone.

Ready Steady Tokyo Olympic Surf Film Festival

But first a message from your Olympic Surf Brand (Quiky-Tokolo) "Hundori"

'Tokyo Weekender' (Goodvibes insisted on this Artzy Fartzy cultural program)

1. ISA Qualifying in Surf Flick format

2.(Fake Japan Olympic Surf Comp) Euro New Wave Edit.

3.(Fake Japan Olympic Surf Comp) Rock Edit.

'60's Japanese Psych/Surf band...hang in there at [1;00] the ride gets real wild like!

(Official US Govt Fake Newsreel) US War Heroes invent Japanese Surfing Flick.
Note: Japanese surfed in own wave pool before Vietnam War & US wavepools. Durr!

4.(Fake Japan Olympic Surf Comp) Mellow Radio Mix.

5. (Fake Japan Olympic Surf Comp) Brazzo / Oz TV Edit.

6.(Fake Japan Olympic Surf Comp) Oriental Tech Mix

Bonus (Unofficial non Olympic Surf Flick)
(Same weekend) Real Japanese Comp cops Tsunami clean up sets from the south.

footnote: Surfing is not only cheapest ticket it's off the Radar (Olympic Precinct)
Promoted Venues need to fit on a Tokyo City Map or Grouped in 2nd City frame.
a) Remote cheapest Surfing ticket falls off venue Maps.
b) Olympic Links are therefore deemed less important even forgotten (404).
c) Surfing Venue is not Architect designed it's an ugly cheap scaffold tent. (Hide it!)

Olympics branded Surfing the shittiest cheapest sport & refused to put it on the Map.

tbb spent a long time & could find only 1 map that pointed to No.[28]
This is Surfing's High point so savour it surf fans..
Click [28] > Click [Surfing] Can't say we didn't try!

Be honest Surf Fans...Surfing was never welcomed into Olympic Games.
ISA / WSL failed to put Surfing on the Map.
In fact surfing is now the cheapest ticketed, tardiest near non existent sport on show.
ISA / WSL cower from Surfing's Olympic sized bully flushing.

Refund Money for "Exhibition" Surfing bathed in true Olympic Ideal will win the day!

kbomb's picture
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kbomb commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 12:27pm

Olympic sports should only be those where winning the event is the pinnacle of the sport. Winning Olympic gold is not the pinnacle of surfing, tennis, golf etc so should not be in the Olympics.


amb's picture
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amb commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 1:20pm

i enjoy watching the half pipe in the winter olympics, prob the only time i watch a half pipe comp..where do u stand on that.?

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memlasurf commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 5:01pm

Winter Olympics are completely different kettle of frozen fish fingers. I like the skiing however I think it has its own pro comp and for most of the sports this is the ultimate and dovetails with their pro comps, plus, it can only be held where they have decent snow and hills. It is for most part, a hard core comp. Japanese beach break hit and miss surfing vs firing JBay, Bells, Margs, Teaupoo, G land.....I will let you draw you own conclusions on that one. They just want to make more money by attracting viewers.

amb's picture
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amb commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 5:21pm

So what your saying is its ok to have surfing in the Olympics as long as the comp is held at a world class wave?

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 5:28pm

Nup, I am saying that they have tacked it on it isn't integral to the real comp like the skiing is. I had never heard of the mob that is run by the guy with the sandals and flowery shirt until recently and I have followed surfing all my life. Had you? Much as I dislike a lot of what goes down with the WSL it is still the pinnacle of comp surfing and if they were fair dinkum they should get points for the Olympics comp towards world champ, and hold it in really serious waves. Only happens every 4 years so might add a bit more interest if the WSL is still around in another 4.

amb's picture
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amb commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 5:42pm

Nup i hadn’t heard of him either, and I’m not talking about Snow Skiing, my point was snowboarding half pipe got added to the winter Olympics. From what i remember the decision wasn’t real popular at the time, but now, from what i believe is a big show piece of it. As i said before its probably one of the few times i watch any halfpipe or the winter Olympics. Im not sure about the points accumulation thing you mentioned, but I totally agree it should be held in World class waves or not have it. Having said that I wouldn’t be opposed to having it in a Kelly style pool.

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 5:56pm

Ahhh novelty event, yes I can see that. From what I heard the surfers, sorry ATHELETE'S, were bored shitless at the tub as they have to sit around all day. Not like surfing (as opposed to tub riding) where you wander down the beach and grab a few between heats. Maybe they can all dress up in colour coordinated gear with clubby hats on too - and don't forget the matching zinc colours. Awesome.

amb's picture
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amb commented Thursday, 8 Aug 2019 at 6:10pm

i don’t reckon the surfers will be bored in the Olympic Athletes village when there heats not on, if the rumors are correct!!

But here’s some free advice if you don’t think Surfing should be in the Olympics don’t watch it.

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Friday, 9 Aug 2019 at 9:15am

Whatever beige is good.

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Friday, 9 Aug 2019 at 9:32am

Oh I forgot, thanks for the patronising advice. Gold, gold, gold.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Friday, 9 Aug 2019 at 10:23am

Memla - You May know him better as the bloke responsible for making a squilion by using perfect female arses to sell thongs AKA Reef sandals.

He’s been empowering women by allowing them the opportunity to earn independent income for years. The original feminist.

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Friday, 9 Aug 2019 at 10:30am

Thanks Blowin I looked him up and he is an ex pat Argentinian. Still never heard of the ISA and not sure how they can claim to represent the pinnacle of surfing competition and can't work out why he had such a hard on to get the surfing in the 'lympics. Says he wants to share the joy, or looking above the arse - and I am sure all the blokes were looking at the sandals!

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Friday, 9 Aug 2019 at 8:56am

Crew are answering their own questions.

Olympics treat surfing like shit but with ISA now boss 50% of WSL Comp years.
1st Olympic Gold Medal 'Surf Sticker' is easily worth 100 WSL goblets ...to sponsors!

Winter Olympics fans are drawn to tense athletic sports in arena format.
Figure Skating + Ice Hockey + Ski / Snow Board Jumps
Sloped Half Pipe arena can be viewed from all angles with action above crowd level.

Summer Olympics Volleyball sex romp sizzles @ #1
Note both Half Pipe & Beach Volleyball dominate prime Olympic City Real Estate
Both fit inside out of Olympic Shopping Mall or Postcard forecourt.

Surfing's isolated cheap ticketed reffo camp is kept off Maps,Web Sites,News.
Surfing is also a long way from opening Ceremony & Athlete's Village sex romp ?

Truth is Olympic arenas are crossbreeding board sports into a generic brotherhood.

Winter Olympic Half Pipe < (same Olympians) > Summer Olympic Skate

Snow Skiers surf Wave Pools in off season!

Wakeboarderz are also bossing City rivers / Docks - Arenas

Flow surfers are shopping in Malls

Surfers in wading pools tethered to obsolete learner boardz will take over the world?
Perhaps Surfers could ramp it up a little or a lot or maybe even a complete makeover!

Today's tech allows giant size ramped surf arena in snow,ice,water,timber (Say it!)...
While surfing stays out -snow board,wake & skate are filling arenas with everything.
Atop stadium ramp surfing universal trick deck into half pipe soon bank a wave face...

Celebrity Deckhead Survivor is half baked & surfing hasn't yet dipped a toe.
Will Skegz cut umbilical chord & snap off training fins for mouse trap circus troupe?

Waco last year...
Waco today!

Fish outta water heads back out to sea...tbb may just beat you to it!

Craig's picture
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Craig commented Thursday, 6 Aug 2020 at 11:21am

Well, like most things this year, the surf outlook through the Tokyo Olympics would have been grim owing to the lack of typhoons.

This from the BOM.

For the first time since at least 1949, no named storms (i.e. equivalent to a category 1 or stronger Australian tropical cyclone) developed in the western North Pacific basin in July 2020. In a typical year, this region sees between 3 and 4 tropical cyclones in July. This continues the well below-average tropical cyclone activity in the western North Pacific Ocean this year. Only one typhoon (equivalent to a category 3 Australian tropical cyclone) had been observed to the end of July 2020, compared to the long-term average of about 5.