Photo/IllutrationShun Murakami wins the men’s competition of the 1st Japan Open of Surfing on May 7 in Ichinomiya, Chiba Prefecture. (Takuya Isayama)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

ICHINOMIYA, Chiba Prefecture--Shun Murakami and Shino Matsuda on May 7 won berths in the surfing world championships and a chance to secure spots for the 2020 Olympic debut event that will be held in familiar waves.

Murakami, 22, was the male winner while Matsuda, 16, was the top female at the 1st Japan Open of Surfing national qualifying competition held at Tsurigasaki beach in Ichinomiya.

The beach will be the venue for surfing when it debuts as an Olympic event next year.

As host nation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan automatically receives two berths--one male and one female--in surfing.

Murakami and Matsuda were the best among the 32 surfers who entered the two-day qualifying competition. If they place highest among Asian surfers at the world championships, called the ISA World Surfing Games, to be held in Miyazaki Prefecture in September, they will essentially be guaranteed those two Olympic spots.

Ichinomiya attracts 600,000 surfers annually and has been called “a holy place” for the sport.

Hiroto Ohara, a 22-year-old who competed in the world surfing championships last year and grew up in Ichinomiya, said, “Only surfers who can win against this type of wave can win in the Olympics.”

Until recently, surfers have focused on winning individual competitions on the tour.

But with surfing receiving more media attention as the Tokyo Games approach, surfers now view Olympic gold as the same as ranking at the top of the world tour.