by YOLO Board Team Member Kacie Wallace, Athlete Ombudsman for the US Olympic Committee

I have relocated for the summer to the Team USA house in the Athlete Village of the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. I am listening as the swimmer asks the gymnast how he is so flexible and strong at the same time. The gymnast asks the rugby player how she takes so many hits in such a short time. The rugby player asks the wrestler how he can cut 11.5 pounds in two days. The wrestler asks the beach volleyball player what it’s like to go to work on a beach every day. The beach volleyball player and the water polo girls compare notes on swimsuits. The synchronized swimmer compares notes with a triathlete and an open water swimmer on preferred water temperature. They are all fascinating conversations, and make me wonder what it will be like to have surfers and SUP’ers in the mix in the coming years.

Surfing and paddleboarding are already on the sports program for the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru – competitions will likely be held at the Punta Rocas venue where the 2014 World Surfing Games took place.

An application has been submitted by the International Surfing Association (ISA) to include shortboard and longboard surfing, as well as standup paddle racing, on the 2020 Olympic program in Tokyo. Tokyo would likely have to build an artificial wave pool for the surfing events given the time of year and the lack of natural waves. The standup paddle races could be held on an existing body of water already targeted as a venue for another sport, such as the Sea Forest Waterway (rowing and canoe/kayak venue) or Odaiba Marine Park (triathlon and marathon swimming venue).

The decision about which sports to add to the Olympic program rests with Tokyo 2020, the organizing committee for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. They have said that the selection procedure will have "high transparency and a fair method" and will be based on sports that are popular among young people and "add value to the Games by engaging the Japanese population and new audiences worldwide." Seven sports have been shortlisted in addition to surfing: baseball/softball, bowling, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, and wushu (wushu is a form of martial arts, similar to kung fu). Other sports that did not make the shortlist include tug of war, polo, free diving, spearfishing, submerged hockey, billiards and American football.

In order for the US to enter a surf/paddle team in the Olympics, should Tokyo 2020 give surfing the nod, we need a nationally based surfing organization to oversee the sport in our country, raise funds, design selection criteria for a national team, create a high performance plan, etc. The process for this to happen has already begun.

As the Athlete Ombudsman for the US Olympic Committee, my role is to advise athletes from all our Olympic and Paralympic sports about their rights, selection procedures, national team agreements, navigating sponsorship, anti-doping, etc., and to help resolve any disputes regarding these issues. My life as a swimmer and now paddler with YOLO has put me in a unique position to be able to understand what it means for these athletes to dedicate their lives to excellence in sport, be surrounded by a community of passionate and disciplined friends and competitors, and share in a vision of hope and opportunity. Joining the YOLO family renewed my own interests in such pursuits and I can’t wait to welcome surfers and paddlers to the Team USA family as we build partnerships between the surf/paddle community and the USOC, focus more energy and resources on youth development in this exciting sport, and dial in on a national team program to represent the US in Lima in 2019 and, hopefully, Tokyo in 2020!

kacie wallace

Me on the left. Sho Nakamori, Pan American gymnast (guess which one he is), and Camille Herron, Pan American marathoner and currently fastest american female ultra runner.

Written by YOLO Team Rider: Kacie Wallace


Learn more about Kacie Wallace and and her role with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

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