The International Surfing Association (ISA) says it welcomes construction delays at the site of the Paris 2024 Olympic surfing competition in Tahiti.
The construction of a judging tower has been paused after local opponents said a barge had damaged coral near the contest site in Teahupo’o.
Footage posted on social media by Save Teahupo’o Reef appeared to show a barge stuck on the reef, and broken coral.
The ISA said it was “saddened and surprised” by the incident.
Surfing’s governing body confirmed the French Polynesian government has paused “all further testing and preparations to draw lessons following the incident on the reef”.
Teahupo’o is renowned as one of the best surfing waves in the world and has long hosted events on the professional World Surf League’s (WSL) championship tour.
However, it has done so with a wooden tower installed on the reef for the judges, and residents say the construction of a much larger aluminium tower to allow up to 40 people to watch, film and judge the surfing at the Games would damage the coral.
Organisers agreed to build a smaller, lighter tower on the site which would require smaller equipment to install it – but new foundations in the reef will still be needed.
Responding to the footage posted by Save Teahupo’o Reef – a coalition of locals, surfers and environmental NGOs – Olympic gold medalist Carissa Moore said: “This doesn’t seem worth it.”
The ISA said: “From the beginning of the proposal to host Olympic surfing in French Polynesia, the ISA has always insisted that the protection of the natural environment in Teahupo’o is a priority.”
It added: “The ISA welcomes this decision, and has urged intensified consultations to consider all available options.”
Paris 2024 organisers said in November that they remain committed to hosting the Olympic surfing event at its planned site in Tahiti – 9,500 miles from the Games in Paris – despite concerns raised by locals about the environmental impact.
The Paris 2024 surf event is scheduled for 27-30 July.