The Olympic committee has ditched windsurfing in favour of kitesurfing. On the face of it a big shame for those of us who think that board shorts over a wetsuit is a bad look. But along with this headline decision is something almost more important, and long, long overdue. They committee has also apparently ditched its long-held insistence that the boarding sport has to be capable of running a race even in zero wind.
This insistence had hamstrung Olympic windsurfing for decades, guaranteeing the last two boards chosen could only be either out of date (IMCO) or a hideous bastard offshoot of real windsurfing kit (RSX or ‘arse sex’ as it invariably became known).
While 95% of recreational windsurfers go and do something else if there is zero wind, Olympians have to get out there and pump. And all because of the self-defeating argument that the races had to be held on time or the media wouldn’t film them. What happened (of course) is that this meant the races were held in locations suitable for the dinghies (no wind). Then the media thought lots of sweaty people standing on a millpond flapping their sails around looked awfully boring and decided to film something else instead. Windsurfing so bored the media that even though the UK had two serious medal hopes in China (one of them very attractive) they got almost no attention.
Had we insisted there had to be a wind minimum, we could have guaranteed exciting races, even if we couldn't have quite guaranteed a where and a when.
I’m not really saying whoever made the decision got it wrong. I think the time was wrong. Such an insistence then may have just meant windsurfing was ditched 8 years ago – I don’t know. And I don’t know how or why the committee has changed its mind now, but I’m glad it finally has, even if it will be kitesurfing that benefits at least in the short/medium term.
The reality is that windsurfing was dropped from the Olympics long ago, when the IMCO went out of date, and certainly when the RSX came in. Windsurfing was replaced by something that looked a bit like windsurfing but no one actually did.
So once the RSX is killed off (and I hope it does so with Bryony and Nick as gold medallists), perhaps this gives windsurfing an opportunity? It could hit the reset button with regard to racing, allowing a new format to develop that actual windsurfers want to do (something else pretty overdue).
And because the kiting events in Rio will be planing events, they’re also likely to be faster, more exciting than any Olympic sailing event has ever been. If this happens it's not too much to think the media might get behind it like it did with BoarderX as the last winter games. If this happens, maybe, just maybe this could leave the Olympic committee looking for other similar disciplines in the future, perhaps even something like windsurfing, real windsurfing…
That’s a lot of maybe’s I know. But in the meantime, and from a wider perspective, I think fast kite racing at the Olympics will be a good thing, possibly even for us who know that shorts on top of wetsuits is daft. And even though I’m sad to see ‘windsurfing’ dropped from the Olympics I hope the door is not permanently shut.