It’s hard to believe that Rio waida used to be afraid of the open sea.
The way the 22-year-old Indonesian is currently carving the waves on the World Surfing League 2022 Challenger Seriesenough now to qualify for the 2023 Championship Tourit seems almost inconceivable that he didn’t immediately love the sport his parents first introduced him to.
“I didn’t like it at first,” Waida admitted with a smile in an exclusive interview with Olympics.com. “I was afraid of the ocean”
Sitting on the sunny, wave-rich beaches of Bali, Waida’s mother and father took turns entertaining their two young sons so they could each surf the waters. It is in this idyll that they introduce Waida to surfing despite her initial reluctance.
Their influence on the Tokyo 2020 The Olympian, not only giving him a start on the board but supporting him throughout his ascent, is evident when he talks about the transition he made from occasional to committed surfer.
“It all started with my parents,” says Waida. “They are hard workers. They don’t like to do 50, 50. I think they either do it 100% or they don’t.
“I don’t remember, but my mum told me that I said I wanted to be world champion and that’s probably why my mum pushed me so hard. She used to come to the beach with me all day. day and gave me advice on what to do. She’s not a surfer, but she knows my weaknesses.
“I mean, because of her and my dad, that’s who I am today” – Rio Waida on his parents
Waida in action at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach at Tokyo 2020, in 2021
Photo by Ryan Pierse
Rio Waida: Growing up
It wasn’t just on the waves either that Waida found himself leaning against his parents growing up.
A medical condition, which required the prodigy to be treated with growth hormones, posed its own set of challenges for the young surfer in his formative years. He found himself targeted at school because of his size.
“I was always the smallest child when I was in class,” says Waida. “I was always being bullied. And then, even outside of school, when I was going to the restaurant or the beach, people would ask me what grade I was in and I would say, ‘Oh, I’m in this class.’ And they were like, ‘Oh, you don’t look that old?’ I think it hurt my mother.
Over time, with medication, Waida eventually grew, as did his determination to prove to those who doubted him that he could become one of the greatest surfers the island nation had ever seen.
“I just focused on myself and what I wanted to be. If I want to be a pro surfer, I would just focus on becoming a pro surfer. Or if you want to be a doctor, just focus on that and study more to become a doctor.”
“You don’t need to hear stuff from anyone else, you know? It’s about yourself. And if you have a good life or a happy life, your dreams come true. That’s what I focused on. think about something else; just me. I’m trying to get better every day – that’s it.”
Even today, the bullies who once made fun of Waida still try to contact him.
“Now they say, ‘Oh, congratulations on your life and everything,'” the Indonesian says.
But their words now, as they did then, hold little sway over the boy who would go down in Olympic history.
READ MORE: Rio Waida: Highlights of the rising Indonesian surfer
The opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020 left a significant mark on Waida who was the country’s flag bearer for the occasion
Photo by 2021 Getty Images
Rio Waida on Tokyo 2020:
Thinking back to the Tokyo 2020 Games, in 2021, where Waida, alongside 39 others, became the first generation of surfers to compete at a Games, it is immediately clear that the Olympics transformed her life.
Whether carrying the flag during the opening ceremony or rubbing shoulders with the best athletes in all sports, the surfer, who knew very little about the Olympic Games, found himself completely changed:
“The Olympics were a big thing for me. I didn’t really watch the Olympics before, but when they announced surfing would be part of it, I started watching. Usain Lockthen the swimmer Michael Phelps. And then I saw that they were the best and I was like, Oh, I want to be like that. I want to get a medal.
“I met a lot of athletes, not just surfers but other sports. I got to know the other athletes from Indonesia. They got a gold medal in badminton and that inspired me I realized that I wanted to be like them and I’m hungrier.
“I realized it wasn’t easy being there and I was very grateful to have the chance to be a flag bearer. It was very cool. I almost cried walking.” – Rio Waida at the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony
“It changed my life. it showed me how to be the best athlete and how it’s not easy to get that medal. Since then, I’ve only been working on myself and I want to go back to Paris 2024 – it’s still my dream. I just want to be the best.
With a new appreciation for what it takes to covet Olympic gold, Waida set out to become a master of his craft.
And the results now speak for themselves.
Thanks to consistent form and back-to-back wins at the Sydney Surf Pro and Ballito Pro, Waida will now become the first full-time surfer in the Indonesian Championship (CT) in 2023.
“I always believed that I had the skills to be on top, it was more mental – like how to prepare and how to stay fit, let’s say healthy,” Waida says of his rise through the ranks.
He explains how he tweaked these important details after studying some of the game’s best last year:
“After the Olympics, I went to Mexico, where I was able to participate in the circumnavigation of the world, then I was able to hang out with the best surfers. I watched them and what they do, and I learned.
“I have to spend time with Kanoa Igarashi, he’s a silver medalist, you know, I learned a lot from him. He didn’t teach me a lot but just by seeing him I learned a lot. How he is prepared and how he thinks, what he eats. I just buckled down to these things and tried to do it.
Doing the CT was always the goal for 2022, but even with all the tweaks and the extra training, Waida was still surprised that he managed to make the dream come true. This has, worryingly enough for the rest of the surfing elite, boosted his confidence.
“I knew that one day it was going to happen, but it happened very quickly; I was super surprised.
“[At Manly] I thought I was lucky. And then the next event in Ballito, I won again. Then I thought, oh, it works, you know? Training and stuff, how I prepare. So it’s all about preparation. If I’m ready, everything is created in my mind, my body is healthy, no injuries, so I’m always ready to go.
Surfing, for its second appearance at the Games, will take place in Tahiti.
A paradise for renowned surfers, it is in a way the ideal setting for those who are thirsty for success in order to achieve their ambitions.
Crystal clear waters, the iconic Teahupo’o wave and the best surfers in the world all in one place: winning an Olympic gold medal there would mean everything to Waida who has already overcome significant obstacles in her career historical.
“My dream is of course to get the medal. I have so many people supporting me and I just want to do them; that’s what I want to do. Bring the medal to Indonesia? That’s what I want TO DO.”