ICHINOMIYA: Under blue skies and a blazing sun, surfing made its Olympic debut on Sunday, more than a century after Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku first pushed for its inclusion at the Games. The action began early at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Tokyo, with the first surfers paddling out in favourable wave conditions. Brazil’s Italo Ferreira, the 2019 world champion, who learned to surf standing on the foam box his father sold fish from, caught the first wave as the men’s heats got under way. “I’m so glad to be here, for sure,” said Ferreira, dripping with water and beaming as he stood on the dark brown sand. “It’s special for the fans, for the surfers. All the surfers are watching at home. It’s special for everyone.” Sunday’s competition saw the start of the men’s and women’s heats ––– featuring 20 riders in each event. But it also marked a huge milestone for the sport in general, with efforts to get it added to the Olympic programme dating back more than 100 years. “I cannot take my mask off, but behind this mask is a very happy face,” said flamboyant International Surfing Association president Fernando Aguerre, resplendent in a Hawaiian shirt, straw hat and shell necklace. “I believed that it was possible, but many times there were such odds against us. So difficult. There was not really a clear process for a couple of decades.” The biggest names in the competition safely negotiated the opening rounds, with Ferreira and Brazilian compatriot Gabriel Medina winning their men’s heats. In the women’s event, American Carissa Moore and Australian seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore both progressed.