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German and Israelian Surfing Teams Tokyo Games 2020 – Previews

Germany and Israel aren’t exactly on the map as global surfing hotspots. Germany, of course, has only a small section of coast and one which is not exactly ideally positioned for quality surf, while Israel is locked away deep in the Mediterranean Sea. Despite that, one surfer from each country has managed to snare a spot in Tokyo, so let’s take a look at who they are, and whether they can cause an upset.

Leon Glatzer

Leon Glatzer is the man who will represent the Germans at Tsurigasaki Beach, but perhaps unsurprisingly, he didn’t grow up in Germany, and instead spent his childhood in areas a little more renowned for their surf culture. The first of those was the Hawaiian island of Maui, where he was born to German parents in 1997. They then moved to Central America, and he spent much of his childhood in a small town called Pavones, which happens to be the location of one of the world’s best left-hand point breaks.

As a teenager and into his early 20s, Glatzer was predominantly a freesurfer who was best known for his aerial ability. He had plenty of natural talent, but it wasn’t until surfing was announced as an Olympic event that he started taking the competition seriously. In 2018 and 2019 he competed in a bunch of contests in the Qualifying Series, winning one in each year and proving that he was more than capable of knuckling down and building scores in competition, rather than just trying to pull off the explosive manouevres for which he was renowned as a freesurfer.

He ended up qualifying for Tokyo through the 2021 ISA World Surfing Games, where he finished fifth ahead of the likes of Owen Wright, Julian Wilson and Michel Bourez. Of the four surfers ahead of him, only Japan’s Hiroto Ohhara is not a staple of the World Surf League.

As a late entrant into the Olympics and someone who has never surfed on the Championship Tour, clearly Glatzer won’t be expected to be going home with the gold. As far as roughies go, however, he is far from the worst. Throughout his freesurfing career it was clear that he had some prodigious talent, but that doesn’t always translate to competitive success. For Glatzer though, the early signs are good. In the past couple of years, a period in which he has begun moving towards a more competitive career, he has quickly shown a knack for competition, and while it would still be a surprise to see him get close to the podium, he’s someone the top seeds would probably rather avoid in the early stages.

Anat Leilor

Anat Leilor is a 21-year-old from Israel’s capital of Tel Aviv, and will be Israel’s sole surfer at the Olympics. Unlike Glatzer, she grew up in her representative country of Israel and as a result, did not exactly have the luxury of quality waves at her doorstep. It may surprise many of you to learn that there is actually a fairly vibrant surf scene in the Middle Eastern nation, but while there are certainly waves to be had they don’t operate with the same consistency or quality as those in the homelands of virtually every other competitor at the Olympics.

She started surfing at the age of five under the tutelage of her dad, and despite an inauspicious introduction to the sport which saw her split her head open on her first wave, she quickly fell in love with it. Fortunately for her, this love was matched by plenty of innate talent, and within a few years she was turning heads on Israel’s junior surf scene.

Less fortunate was the lack of competition she had, and by the time she was a teenager Leilor had pretty much run out of people to surf against – at least in any sort of meaningfully competitive way. Eventually she started competing against the boys – a barrier which took a lot of gentle encouragement from her and her father to break – and ultimately made it into the Qualifying Series as an 18-year-old in 2019.

She had a number of impressive results that year, including a win in Anglet and a third in Tenerife, but probably most important of all was the performance at the European ISA World Surfing Games which saw her earn a spot at the Olympics – something which would have been unimaginable ten years ago, and not only because of the fact that surfing was not yet an Olympic radar.

Leilor has had to break countless barriers to get to where she is today, something which has given her an intestinal fortitude that will no doubt hold her in good stead against the best surfers in the world. She’s also, it’s worth mentioning, very talented, and packs a whole lot of power into her slight 5’4” frame. That doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be able to take it up to the best surfers in the world, surfers of the quality she’s never competed against, but she’ll certainly be no pushover.

Neither Leilor nor Glatzer will be expected to do too much damage in Tokyo, and more than likely neither of them will. But both of them possess a level of talent that belies their relative inexperience in high-level competition, and while they may not be beating the best of the world at Tsurigasaki Beach, they’ll certainly prove to be worthy competitors.