Women to Watch: Surfing at the Tokyo Olympic Games

Carissa Moore
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By Greer Wilson

The first-ever Olympic surfing competition will take place at the Tokyo Games. Competition will take place roughly 40 miles east of Tokyo at Tsurigasaki beach, known locally as Shida beach. Surfers are slated to compete over a four-day competition window, with the gold medal final currently scheduled for the night of Tuesday, July 27, in the United States (8:30pm ET, full schedule here). Because surfing relies on favorable wave conditions, event dates and times are highly subject to change.

Surfing is one of four sports (along with karate, skateboarding, and sport climbing) making its debut at the Tokyo Olympic Games. A total of 40 athletes are in the Olympic field: 20 men and 20 women. While some surfers qualified over a year ago during the 2019 World Surf League Championship Tour, the remainder of the field was determined in June at the 2021 ISA World Surfing Games. In surfing, the judges score competitors based on degree of difficulty, along with speed, power, and flow. 

RELATED: Carissa Moore lands air reverse, earning near-perfect score

Surfing is one of the only sports that awards equal price money to men and women. In 2019, the World Surf League (WSL) began awarding equal prize money to male and female athletes competing at WSL events, including the top-tier Championship Tour. American Caroline Marks became the first woman to pocket $100,000, which she earned for winning the women’s Gold Coast event.

Here’s a look at women who are expected to contend for the first Olympic gold medal in surfing:

  • Carissa Moore (USA) – Four-time World Champion
  • Caroline Marks (USA) – Finished as runner-up on the 2019 Championship Tour
  • Johanne Defay (France) – Currently ranked second on 2021 Women’s Championship Tour
  • Stephanie Gilmore (Australia) – Seven-time world champion
  • Sally Fitzgibbons (Australia) – 2021 ISA World Surfing Games champion
  • Daniella Rosas (Peru) – 2019 Pan American Games champion
  • Sofia Mulanovich (Peru) – 2019 ISA World Surfing Games champion

RELATED: How surfer Caroline Marks learned to love her body


To stay updated on the biggest news in women’s sports at the Tokyo Olympics (and beyond), be sure to follow On Her Turf on InstagramTwitter, and bookmark the On Her Turf blog.

During the Olympics, you can also catch up on all of the major storylines in women’s sports by watching “On Her Turf @ The Olympics,” a 30-minute show that will stream for free on Peacock. Hosted by Lindsay Czarniak, MJ Acosta-Ruiz, and Lolo Jones, the show kicks off on Saturday, July 24, and will stream every day of the Games (Monday-Saturday at 7pm ET and Sundays at 6pm ET).