Jeremy Flores: Why Tokyo Olympics means so much for surfing
The most successful European pro surfer of all time sees the Olympic Games in 2021 as 'historical' for his sport and can't wait to surf on home waves in Tahiti at Paris 2024.
Once upon a time, Jeremy Flores was a fresh-faced 17-year-old, surfing on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour for the first time.
Fast-forward to 2021 and the French surfer, who grew up in the Reunion Island before moving to inland France as a teenager, is now a veteran of the sport, currently in his 14th year on the world tour.
But at 32 years old, Flores is looking forward to new challenges, relishing the opportunity to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where surfing will make its Olympic debut.
"I think it's great because it's a form of respect . It is the biggest sporting event in the world. So just being part of it, especially the first one ever for surfing, is historical," he told the Olympic Channel.
In our exclusive interview, Europe's most successful pro surfer in history explains how the sport has evolved over the years and how he's looking forward to competing on home waves in Tahiti at Paris 2024.
Tokyo calling: 'New' waves
Flores earned his ticket by being one of the top 10 male surfers in the world at the end of the 2019 WSL Championship tour season.
“It's historical. It's a proud moment. When I grew up, I never even dreamed of being in an Olympics because surfing wasn't in the Olympics.'' - Jeremy Flores.
"I loved watching the Olympics since I was a kid. I never missed anything because every time it's on I get so excited. I love watching every sport and discovering some amazing sports," he says.
The Frenchman is honoured to be representing his country and flying the French flag in Japan come July.
"Personally, I'm really proud, but it's more about giving back to people that believed than me. People that helped me, people that sacrificed a lot for me. It's going to be really interesting and it's going to be just an amazing experience to be part of.''
As the most successful European pro surfer in history, he's excited to take his career to new heights.
"I think it's great because it's a form of respect . It is the biggest sporting event in the world. So just being part of it, especially the first one ever for surfing, is historical.
"It's a proud moment for my family, my small community of people from Reunion Island. Every time there's an athlete that goes to the Olympics who comes from a small community, it’s like it's a super proud moment."
The conditions at Tsurigasaki Beach, the venue hosting surfing at the Tokyo Olympics, will represent a challenge even for the most expert surfers on the tour.
"It's exciting because I've never really trained for these kinds of waves. This is new. I've been on the World Tour for so long, and we get used to certain kinds of waves, so this is a really big challenge for me, but I'm always up for the challenge."
Over the years surfing has grown from niche sport to global business.
Flores has been witness of this evolution, saying that documentaries, advertising and social media have played part in helping the general public understand the sport more
"I never thought surfing would become so big," Flores says. "Some of the surfers travel around and go from place to place in helicopters, private jets and stuff.
"I thought this only happens with like football players. Well that's happening in surfing now too, which is pretty crazy. I never thought this day would come."
Flores is never one to be underestimated.
Having won four Championship Tour events, he knows what it takes to win, and when he does, he wins big.
His most recent triumph was a historic win on home turf at the 2019 Quiksilver Pro France.
"One of my favourite moments in my career was when I won the French event two years ago. I was in front of my crowd and you see this only once in your life. Such a special moment to be able to surf in front of thousands of people. Like 30 or 40 thousand people on the beach and winning in front of your crowd. That's like that's the most special thing I think an athlete can dream of.
"You could hear the people screaming. It's like being in a soccer stadium. So it was crazy. The noise was unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it."
Looking forward to surfing at Paris 2024
His other three victories are on the most iconic waves in the world. Banzai Pipeline and Teahupo’o, Tahiti.
He's a two-time Hawaii Pipe Master (2010, 2017) and the 2015 Billabong Pro Teahupo’o champion.
So it's not surprising to hear he's looking forward to Teahupo’o, Tahiti hosting the surfing competition for Paris 2024 for surfing's second Olympic appearance.
"One of the most beautiful places in the world with some of the most amazing waves in the world with the best surfers in the world. So, I mean, that's what you look for when you're a surfer. But I'm sure that's what you look for when you organise an event to get people watching your your event, your sport."
"I think to be guaranteed good conditions, good waves and a good show. It was a great decision to have it in Tahiti."