Journey to Tokyo: Surfing set to make Olympic debut

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LEMOORE, Calif. (KSEE) – Chances are when you think of surfing, the first name that comes to mind is Kelly Slater. He is considered the greatest professional surfer of all-time, with eleven world championships.

In 2015, Slater opened a surf ranch in Lemoore, California.

“We’re in the ocean. We’re pretty socially distanced,” said Slater during an appearance at the surf ranch last month. “I was in Australia for three months and the whole time I was there you were able to surf the whole time and COVID-19 was super under control. So I don’t think surfing is the problem, and I think it makes sense that we get back out there.”

Kelly Slater’s surf ranch is 2,000 feet long and 500 feet wide. It cost $30 million. At any given time, though, it is home to some of the best surfers in the world.

Including, for the first time, Olympians.

“You know, it’s so rad to have surfing in the Olympics,” says Caroline Marks. “It’s one of the only things that brings the whole world together and it’s really special that surfing has reached that level of professionalism.”

Just 18 years old, Marks qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in December. She finished 2019 as the second-ranked American woman in the world.

“It was a big battle at the end of the year, but super stoked to make it because all the girls are surfing so well,” she said. “And, like I said, first year ever it’s in the Olympics, so it’s monumental.”

Kelly Slater, however, will not compete at the Olympics. And not because of his age. Slater, 48, lost in the semifinals at the last qualifying event in December.

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