Your new APB World Women’s Champion, Ayaka Suzuki of Japan!
After a tremendous effort during the day today at Praia do Norte, Nazare, and an even longer journey of 8 years before that, Ayaka Suzuki of Japan had trouble grasping what had just happened.
“I am really, really, really happy. That’s all. I can’t believe it!”
Suzuki was able to overcome a very much in form Alexandra Rinder in a final, winner-take-all ‘super heat’ to claim her first world title, which also happened to be the first world title ever for Japan in the sport of bodyboarding.
Suzuki managed to take the win after a shock exit from the competition at the hands of fellow rider from Japan Sari Ohara, who was also able to eliminate world title contender Isabela Sousa in the Quarter Finals before that. Throughout the morning, it was looking as though Sari Ohara would be unstoppable, defeating any and all in her path.
She was finally beaten by Alexandra Rinder in the final, but it must be said that her performance in the slabbing shore-break conditions today makes her a serious threat next year.
The journey for Ayaka Suzuki to this pinnacle of the sport began 14 years ago, when she first started bodyboarding.
“When I started bodyboarding, I was 8 years old and I was watching bodyboarding competitions and the APB. It was the ideal tour and I remember thinking “Oh, I wanna get to the top”. But it was so tough to get a step up, through Round 1 and Round 2 and Round 3.”
“It took me 8 years to get here now and I am just really, really, really happy to be here. It is my dream, I am living my dream right now. I just feel like if you never give up you can make any dream come true. That’s how I got this.”
Everyone at Praia do Norte begun the day knowing that the world title race was still wide open. Either Joana Schenker, Alexandra Rinder, Isabela Sousa or Ayaka Susuki would finish the day victorious, holding aloft the highest award in competitive bodyboarding.
For Alexandra Rinder, to be able to claim the world title, many others needed to fall before specific points in the competition, and she needed to do no less than claim victory at Nazare. She did just that, dispatching with reigning world champion Joana Schenker in the semi-finals in vicious form, before taking the victory from Sari Ohara of Japan, who was able to defeat countrywoman Ayaka Suzuki in the semifinal.
The ‘super heat’ final between Rinder and Suzuki was definitely lacking the same energy as the heats previous. Both riders struggled to find scoring rides throughout the heat, but in the end, Ayaka Suzuki did enough to clinch the victory.
Alexandra Rinder was both gracious and emotional for different reasons in losing the ‘super heat’ against Ayaka:
“Myself and Ayaka are really good friends. I am really happy and proud for her. It wasn’t my year. But I did my best.”
“I am actually just stoked because this is the first time that I have been able to win my first competition with both of my parents here.”
One of the remarkable aspects of Ayaka Suzuki’s rise to the top of women’s bodyboarding has been her decision to chase larger waves to improve. Waves that are not typical in her native Japan:
“Japan has a lot of small waves, and I am really good in small waves because I practice like 10 years. When I started the world tour, they have a lot of place to have heavy waves. Big close out sections and heavy shore breaks and big conditions. I realised that I needed to train in powerful waves and huge waves to make me more able to compete on the world tour. So, I started travelling more and more, charging bigger and bigger, heavier waves. I think my level has been getting better from that.”
“Now, I like to ride big waves and more powerful waves and my travels to big wave locations has helped. I went from 3 years ago just winning in a tour, 2015 in Nazare, and I decided that I was gonna go out from Japan to practice more with big waves. That has helped me a lot.”
The victory for Ayaka is still fresh and the significance of this still yet to be totally understood for bodyboarding in Japan:
“It is crazy to be the first Japanese world champion in the sport. I can’t really understand it, but I am really stoked to bring this to Japan. I hope somebody can be waiting for me in the airport!”
“I think to be world champion, it will help the bodyboard situation in Japan. In Japan, we have the Olympic Games soon, but they don’t have a bodyboard category. So, I think it would be really good to have a bodyboard division, not in 2020, but maybe the next Olympic Games. That’s my goal.”
Ayaka has proven this year that when she sets her mind to it, she can achieve anything. Her efforts to go out of her comfort soon in big waves like those found in Central and South America shows that she has the courage and determination of a true champion.
The APB is very proud to crown her the APB Women’s World Champion for 2018.
The Final of the Men’s Trials event was held in between the finals of the women’s event today. Even though all riders had already qualified for the Main Event, there were valuable QEST points on offer, particularly for Socrates Santana, who was able to steal victory from an inform Dave Hubbard. Nelson Flores was able to finish in 3rd place and Basque up and comer Txomin Lopez finished 4th. It is still unclear at this point who the qualifiers are from the QEST Tour for 2018, but officials are hoping to have a better idea after the Sessions Rounds of competition are completed.
Tune in tomorrow at 7:30am at apbtour.com/live or on our facebook page APBTOUR.