By Todd Kortemeier | Aug. 12, 2019, 12:37 p.m. (ET)

Kelly Slater leaving the water after Round 2 at the Quiksilver Pro and Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast on April 04, 2019 in Duranbah Beach, Australia.

 

With surfing’s debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 drawing ever closer, it’s no wonder Team USA’s best athletes will be in the water for next month’s ISA World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan.

It will in fact be the strongest-ever team that USA Surfing has entered in the World Surfing Games, featuring not only both world No. 1s in Kolohe Andino and Carissa Moore, but also surfing legend Kelly Slater. The rest of the team members are all having outstanding World Surf League seasons in their own right, with Courtney Conlogue ranked sixth and Caroline Marks in fifth for the women, while Conner Coffin ranks 12th on the men’s tour with Slater in eighth.

The roster is a veritable dream team for the U.S., as historically the World Surfing Games teams have been populated with promising junior surfers. At last year’s event, most of Team USA was teenagers. But with the Olympic Games nearing, this is a prime opportunity for Team USA’s best to prepare.

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The World Surfing Games are the first event in which athletes can qualify directly for Tokyo, though not for the Americas region as those spots were determined at the Pan American Games. The World Surf Games, however, are a required event for Olympic hopefuls. It’s also an opportunity for surfers to test themselves against not only familiar foes from the World Surf League, but also elite surfers from other countries they may only see in Tokyo.

“I’m looking forward to the energy and team vibe of the World Surf Games,” Andino told USA Surfing. “To surf for your team and country to prepare for the Olympics is powerful.”

Team USA is expected to qualify the maximum two surfers per gender for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 via the World Surf League rankings. Currently, that would be Andino and John John Florence (though he is currently sidelined by an ACL injury, with Slater the next-highest American) on the men’s tour and Moore and Lakey Peterson for the women.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.