TOKYO >> By his own count Fernando Aguerre said he worked 22 years to get surfing added to the Olympic schedule. So when the first of the 40 Summer Games competitors hit the waves early Sunday morning at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach in Chiba Prefecture, about 40 miles east of Tokyo, it was a special moment.
“It was a very emotional feeling for me,” Aguerre said. “This will never happen again. The first day of Olympic surfing.”
Some of the surfers felt the same way.
“I never dreamed of surfing in the Olympics. It was only until the last few years, when it got accepted into the Games, it really became a reality,” said American Carissa Moore, a four-time world champion from Hawaii who advanced later Sunday to the quarterfinals by defeating Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich, 10.34-9.9.
“The other day I was walking through the check-in room and I saw the jersey. I was so excited to actually see my name and the Olympic Rings on the jersey. It’s a very special time to be a part of surfing and to be here on this world stage. I’m very honored and I feel very fortunate.”
“It feels surreal to actually put the Olympic jersey on,” said 19-year-old Caroline Marks. “I feel just so proud and honored to be here and represent my country. It was really fun.”
Kolohe Andino was the first U.S. surfer in the water, placing second in his heat to advance. He will face teammate John John Florence, a two-time world champ, in a one-on-one elimination heat Tuesday. Florence of the United States won his second-round heat with a score of 12.77.
Two other Hawaii surfers were beaten late Sunday and one of the top surfers, seven time world champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia, also was beaten.
South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag defeated Gilmore, 13.93-10.0. Caroline Marks of the United States defeated Mahina Maeda, Hawaii-born but surfing for Japan, 15.33-7.74. Amuro Tsuzuki of Japan defeated Tatiana Weston-Webb, who’s from Hawaii but surfing for Brazil, 10.33-9.0.
Ecuador’s Dominic Barona marked surfing’s Olympic debut by getting the Olympic rings tattooed on her wrist before leaving for Tokyo, although she had to wear a long-sleeve shirt around the house to keep it secret from her mother.
“I got it because this is for life. We’re the first Olympic athletes in surfing, so I wanted to save this moment for all my life,” she said. “I don’t know how she’s going to feel about it. But this is so important for me. Every time I go out in the water, I’ll see the tattoo.
“To be a part of this is an honor. I still can’t believe it yet, it feels like every day I’m dreaming.”