Skip to main content

San Clemente Journal

Surfing’s Olympic Debut Features San Clemente’s Best

Jun 16, 2021 12:18PM ● By Rebecca Parsons

Carissa Moore

by Rebecca Parsons

Surfing’s inclusion in the Tokyo Olympics has been a long time coming and with the delay due to the pandemic, anticipation for its debut is at an all time high. Representing team USA is San Clemente powerhouse Kolohe Andino, two-time world champ John John Florence, four-time world champ Carissa Moore, and junior surf legend Caroline Marks. Eleven-time world champ Kelly Slater and progressive Santa Barbara local Lakey Peterson round out the team as alternates.

Kolohe Andino Air Reverse


Although qualification procedures vary from country to country, the United States opted to take the top-two ranked American men and the top-two ranked American women at the end of the 2019 WSL season. 

“I look at the end result and we got our best surfers,” says USA Surfing’s CEO Greg Cruse. “They’re the top surfers in the world that are on the Championship Tour (CT). But at Paris in 2024, it’s not necessarily the best CT surfers that are going to be the best at Teahupo’o-it’s probable but not certain.”

 John John Florence

Although Cruse is confident in this year’s team and qualifying process, he’s hoping we take a slightly different approach for the 2024 Games. In order to round up the best team, he’d like to see trial events held at Pipeline or the Wedge, someplace that approximates a thick, hollow wave similar to Teahupo’o. But for now, he’s focused on Tokyo. 

This year’s team will be heading to Tokyo under the guidance of Brett Simpson. Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, the two-time U.S. Open winner was unanimously voted by the athletes to serves as the first-ever U.S. Olympic surf coach.

Carolyn Marks


“Brett was the assistant coach for the ISA World Surf Games and he was the go-to guy and the glue that kept the team together,” says Cruse. “We had half a dozen people on our list and the athletes chose him-he’s amazing.”

In an ideal world, the team would be working and training together under Simpson’s guidance in preparation for the event. While they were able to sneak in a session together at the BSR Cable Park in Waco, Texas, the athletes have been doing the majority of their training on their own or working with Simpson when they find themselves on the mainland.

“With COVID restricting travel and with such a crazy tour, we haven’t really had the opportunity to train together that much as a team,” says Greg. “It’s not a team sport, everyone’s individual. But we had everyone at the ISA World Surf Games in 2019 and it was fun to watch them be involved as a team and rooting each other on.”

While the Olympics are set to take place in Tokyo, the surf portion will be held approximately forty miles east of the capital at Tsurigasaki Beach. According to Cruse, the venue is similar to Newport Beach, with a series of jetty walls. But the waves are comparable to Virginia Beach on the east coast-the beach gets wind swell from the northeast and southern hemisphere hurricane swell from hurricanes that spin up from the Philippines. 

“The Olympics are at the beginning of hurricane season,” says Cruse. “So we could have hurricanes and if we end up getting the swell and not the weather, it could be epic.”
In an effort to keep everyone safe, athletes will be quarantining prior to the games. Team USA secured a bed and breakfast that’s run by a local surfer, which will serve as their home base during their time in Tokyo. The spot is complete with nine bedrooms, a commercial kitchen, a Jacuzzi, and a recovery center, so the athletes will have everything they need during quarantine and beyond.

Although the past year has been hectic, Cruse believes the delay will ultimately work out in Team USA’s favor. “I think everyone having a year off was good mentally,” he says. “It gave everyone a chance to get re-centered, appreciate what they have, and re-focus.”

In addition to having an athlete out of San Clemente, our town is also serving as home of the US Olympic surf team. USA Surfing is incorporate in San Clemente and the majority of the staff lives in town. There are also plans to build a performance training center for the athletes to train at regularly. 

“There are surfers from around the world that are moving here,” says Cruse. “Everyone wants to surf Lowers and likes the variety of waves in San Clemente year round. If you have the choice, it’s where you want to be if you’re involved in surf.”

Like many things this past year, the Olympics will look a little different. Without spectators, NBC won’t be able to get shots of the friends and family, so USA Surfing is hosting a number of watch parties in town were crews will film. Parties are currently set to take place at Shoreline Church as well as a few local restaurants. 

“Surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics is huge,” says Cruse. “Bringing it to the world stage, we’ll be able to share what we all love and how athletic and aesthetically beautiful surfing truly.”
Follow them on:


The Team
Kolohe Andino was the first American surfer to qualify for Team USA’s Olympic surf team with performances so strong he earned the position in October before the season ended. Growing up in San Clemente with a pro surfer dad, Kolohe won seven USA Surfing Champion titles and nine National Scholastic Surfing Association Championships - a record for boys under 18. One of the most entertaining surfers to watch, Kolohe has an aggressive, progressive style. Many of the local groms look up to Kolohe, who is quick to encourage and support the up-and-coming talent.

John John Florence is a two-time world champion who grew up on the North Shore of Oahu. John made an incredible comeback from injury to gain provisional Olympic qualification. Despite missing more than half the season recovering from ACL surgery, he held onto one of two top U.S. spots, after returning to compete in the WSL's final event of the season - the Pipe Masters. John started surfing when he was just two-years-old. At the age of 13, John became the youngest person to compete in the Triple Crown of Surfing. Just six years later he would win his first title and in 2017 clinched his second. John’s surfing is in a league of its own; he effortlessly pulls off freakish airs and maneuvers with athleticism and style.

Caroline Marks made history as the youngest surfer (man or woman) to qualify for the World Surf League Championship Tour at just 15-years-old and had a performance so strong she was named WSL Rookie of the Year. She grew up in Melbourne Beach, Fla., where she learned to surf with her brothers when she was eight-years-old. Before going on the WSL CT, she racked up multiple USA Surfing championship wins, including winning the gold medal in the 2016 ISA World Junior Surfing Championships Girls Under 16 division. 
Carissa Moore is a four-time World Champion from Honolulu. She surfs with remarkable power and finesse and is known for her work helping young girls develop confidence and pursue their dreams. Carissa started racking up wins at National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) junior surf competitions and top spots at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships, where she helped Hawaii win a team victory. In all, she clinched a record 11 NSSA amateur titles, and at age 16 became the youngest champion at a Triple Crown of Surfing event. At age 18, she became the youngest person - male or female - to win a surfing world title and was the first woman to compete in the Triple Crown of Surfing, Hawaii’s most prestigious contest series featuring the world’s best male surfers. Carissa was a star student at Punahou High (the same high school President Barack Obama attended) where she met her husband, Luke Untermann. She took four years of Japanese in high school and is looking forward to sharpening her use of the language during the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.