Surfers have a unique connection to the ocean and its marine life. Sharing waves with dolphin and looking down on beautiful coral teeming with life is part of what keeps surfers coming back to the ocean for more. It’s what makes surfers some of the world’s strongest ambassadors for clean, healthy oceans and marine life.
That’s why USA Surfing joined forces with ocean conservation artist Wyland to surfing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, Japan. Wyland painted two T.Patterson surfboards commemorating surfing’s first Olympic Games, using a new twist on an ancient Japanese method of creating marine life prints. The surfboards are being auctioned off to raise awareness about clean oceans and support for USA Surfing. To make your bid go to: usasurfing.givesmart.com
Wyland’s art and the work of his nonprofit foundation celebrate clean oceans and healthy marine life, and have been the centerpiece of several Olympic Games.
His role as Olympic artist has given him a front row seat to some epic Olympic performances, including seven Michael Phelps’ gold medals, and Serena and Venus Williams gold medal doubles match.
Four-time world champion and Team USA Olympic surfer Carissa Moore met up with Wyland on the North Shore to talk about the meaning behind art that honors the host country and promotes healthy oceans and marine life.
“Being a surfer and having the ocean as my workplace and my playground, I definitely feel a responsibility to take care of the ocean the best that I can,” Carissa said.
Carissa has hosted several beach clean ups to rid her local surf breaks of plastic pollution and is a Surfrider ambassador.
“I want my children and the generations after to be able to walk the same beaches, surf the same reefs and enjoy the same wildlife and ocean ecosystems that have made a difference in my life,” Carissa said.
Wyland painted the commemorative USA Surfing boards at his North Shore studio just steps away from some of Hawaii’s most popular surf breaks. As the birthplace of surfing, Hawaii is proud to have two surfers — Carissa Moore and John John Florence, on the nation’s first Olympic surf team.
“It’s a great honor to be the official artist for the U.S. Olympic team,” Wyland said. “What I try to do is just support our athletes and raise awareness about protecting our oceans. To have surfing in the Olympics now! Man! That’s one of my favorite sports.”
Surfing’s Olympic debut will take place at Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba — about 40 minutes outside Tokyo.
Carissa is a huge fan of Japan and Japanese culture and food. She took several years of Japanese in middle and high school and spent time touring Tokyo in 2019 before surfing in the Miyazaki ISA World Surfing Games.
“I loved learning about Japanese culture and the language,” Carissa said. “I’m looking forward to immersing myself again with the people, eating good food, and hopefully putting my Japanese to the test.”
To honor the host country, Wyland painted the boards using a technique inspired by Gyotaku — a 19th century Japanese method of illustrating marine life by pressing ink-soaked fish onto rice paper.
“I’m an animal lover, so I went about it a little differently,” laughed Wyland. “I took a conservationist approach leaving the animals in the ocean and bringing them to life on the board.”
Wyland said surfboards provide an excellent canvas, with lines and curves that collectors treasure.
“We know there will be a lot of interest in scoring these Wyland originals, celebrating surfing’s first Olympic Games,” said USA Surfing COO Andrea Swayne. “Their beauty, conservation message and place in Olympic history make them really special pieces.”
As the largest sporting stage in the world, the Olympics provide an unparalleled platform for Wyland’s art and message. Just as the Olympics unites all nations in a love for sport, he says we are all connected by the world’s oceans.
“Water connects all 7 billion people on Earth,” Wyland said. “Every drop of water on the planet is connected. Surfers experience this every day and appreciate the imperative to conserve and protect our beautiful oceans and marine life for future generations”
Wyland completed his 100th Whaling Wall at the Beijing Olympic Games, engaging children from the 200-plus countries represented in the Olympics to paint a nearly mile-long mural featuring endangered species.
The Beijing Olympic Whaling Wall remains one of the largest public arts projects in history. The Washington, D.C. national mall mural was viewed by 400,000 people during a two week exhibition.
To learn more about other items available during the auction of Wyland’s commemorative surfboards marking the sport’s first Olympic Games, follow USA Surfing’s social media channels. The art will also be featured on t-shirts and other merchandise with proceeds going to the Wyland Foundation and USA Surfing. You can bid on the boards at usasurfing.givesmart.com.
USA surfing followed Wyland’s artistic process and interviewed him about what the Olympics mean to him and the oceans and marine life at the core of his art and career. Watch more behind-the-scene videos and painting with WSL CT surfer and budding artist Courtney Conlogue.