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Founders’ Cup has Olympic feel this week at Surf Ranch

  • Matt Dunbar/WSL

    Kauai’s Tatiana Weston-Webb announced Sunday that she will be surfing under the Brazilian flag in competitions moving forward. Born in Brazil, Weston-Webb has a great opportunity to eventually surf for Brazil’s Olympic team at the Tokyo Games in 2020.

The theme of the week is nationality and it’s definitely covering a lot of ground. With the Founders’ Cup set to open up on Saturday morning, the surf world is breaking from its typical individual competitions in favor of the rarer team format. Five teams will come together at the Surf Ranch in Leemore, Calif. to test out some man-made waves ahead of the Championship Tour event that will take place there later this year.

In addition to that highly-anticipated event, more international news broke this week as Tatiana Weston-Webb announced on Sunday that she will be surfing under the Brazilian flag on the CT moving forward in anticipation of what will hopefully be an Olympic bid for the 2020 squad. While her announcement seemed to have been made with some trepidation and concern about negative feedback, I think it’s a great opportunity and shouldn’t be met with anything of the sort.

Having been born in Brazil and is half Brazilian, Weston-Webb has always publicly embraced that part of her heritage. She’s a Kauai girl, but a chance to participate in the first ever Olympic surf competition would be a monumental moment — one she or anyone else would be pretty foolish to let pass for appearance reasons.

With all the Hawaii surfers joining forces with all the Mainlanders for the US Olympic team, it’s going to be an extremely deep talent pool. Some really deserving and decorated surfers are going to be left home without an opportunity to take in everything an Olympic experience can offer. Those who do qualify will be taking on the best of the best, but there will certainly be those watching from afar who are more qualified than some competing.

That almost certainly won’t be the case for Tati. While the Brazilian men have been extremely successful over the past decade, the same can’t really be said for Brazil’s wahine surfers. Other than Silvana Lima, none has made much of an impact at the highest levels. Case in point, the second woman for this week’s Brazilian Founders’ Cup team is Taina Hinckel, who is currently ranked 59th on the Qualifying Series and has yet to crack the top 100 for a season.

Weston-Webb immediately becomes Brazil’s top woman. She’s No. 4 on the CT after three contests this season and a threat in every type of wave on the schedule. Had she made this decision just a bit sooner, she’d have been able to compete this weekend at the Surf Ranch, but I’m sure she’ll take Tokyo in 2020 as a backup plan.

Speaking of the rosters this week, here’s who will be comprising the five-member squads:

The American team will consist of captain Kelly Slater, Kolohe Andino, John John Florence, Carissa Moore and Lakey Peterson.

The Brazilian squad will be captained by Gabriel Medina, along with Adriano de Souza, Hinckel, Lima and Filipe Toledo.

Team Australia will see captain Stephanie Gilmore supported by Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Matt Wilkinson and Tyler Wright.

The European team is captained by France’s Johanne Defay, joined by Italy’s Leonardo Fioravanti, France’s Jeremy Flores, Germany’s Frankie Harrer and Portugal’s Frederico Morais.

Finally, the World team consists of captain Jordy Smith of South Africa, Tahiti’s Michel Bourez, South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag, New Zealand’s Paige Hareb and Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi.

Igarashi made the same decision as Tati, repping the Japanese flag this season for the first time. Any opportunity to add more talent to the Olympic pool is a win for us as spectators and any opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games is a win for an athlete. The next couple years will be an unprecedented time in international surf competition, so there’s a lot to look forward to, starting this week.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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