Slater Says, ‘There Will Be a Few Really Great Surfers Left Out’ of the 2020 Olympics

Kelly Slater was interviewed earlier this year by Graham Bensinger, a TV sports reporter who sits down with the GOAT from time to time to talk about a range of topics under the banner of surfing. This time, the two discussed everything from wave pools, Slater’s upbringing and what it’s like competing at 47 years old. But the most interesting part of the interview is the section above, wherein Slater voices his concerns about the Olympic qualification process and the 2020 Games being held in Tokyo.

“The only thing I’m really worried about with the Olympics is there will be a few really great surfers left out, because of the way the qualification process happens,” Slater tells Bensinger. “‘Cause like Brazil’s got like five of the top ten guys in the world right now. They’re only going to be able to send two guys to the Olympics. Two or maybe three maximum. There might be some people that are worthy being left out and then the waves might be real small. Japan’s a bit tough at that time of year. This year, that same week that they’re gonna run the Olympics next year, had nothing bigger than, like waist high surf. So, it could be a real challenge for everyone involved … I hope that’s not the case.”

Slater then expresses that holding the Games in a wave pool would have easily solved that challenge. ” I was pretty surprised. I try not to make too strong of an opinion ’cause I’m part of a company… and that would look very biased. But, at the same time, I thought that we should have had that as a possible way to run, in case the ocean wasn’t going to provide. So, I just think it’s a good back up… I thought it would make a lot of sense for Japan, ’cause they’re such a technologically advanced culture…I just thought, ‘Wow, this would be something that they’re bringing a new sport in, and they’ll present it in a new way.’ Was my kind of thinking, but that didn’t happen for whatever reason.”

Just when you thought Slater’s concerns about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics revolved solely around the possibility of getting shit waves during the Games’ waiting period and, of course, beating John John for the second spot on the U.S. Olympic team next month, Bensinger hit him with another question: What challenges do you think Japan has between now and the Games in getting ready for surfing?

Slater, not one to shy away from sharing his thoughts and theories on global issues, answered honestly. “Figuring out their radiation problem,” he replied. “And making sure we’ve got enough waves to surf. I don’t know. They probably don’t want me talking about that…But it’s a reality, and it’s actually not a laughing matter. The cancer rates in the country have skyrocketed. And they’re not telling people about that. And that’s from friends of mine who live there and/or have moved out of the country because of it.”

Whether or not that last bit about Japan hiding skyrocketing cancer rates is a true, Slater thinks “it’s a huge concern”–and he doesn’t stop there. “And for a surfer, the Taiji Cove where they round up the dolphins and either kill them or sell them to amusement parks is another issue,” he says. “So there’s a few things that I think won’t be sort of politically correct that are spoken about during the games and I think rightfully so, but that, you know, that brings up bigger topics around the world, around nuclear power, and captive animals, and the fact that we kill and eat so many animals around the world, and it’s something that we all need to be aware of and do something about I think.”

To hear more of the GOAT’s candid thoughts, click through the rest of the interview topics below:

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