Victor Fernandez in Omaezaki

Double Podium in JAPAN

Last week the first PWA IWT Wave Event of the season kicked off and team riders Victor Fernandez and Maria Andres both started the season on the podium!

Omaezaki is famous for its crazy storms and starboard tack conditions, but unfortunately the conditions presented were more similar to those found in northern Europe. Light wind onshore conditions proved challenging for all the riders, but experience and skill shone through for both Maria and Victor, with them both finishing 3rd in the finals.

We caught up with both of them to get their perspective on the event:

»It was challenging conditions but I am happy to have made it to the final and on the podium again«

— Victor Fernandez

Victor, congratulations - this is your 22nd season competing on the PWA and still you’re on the podium! How was the contest for you?

Yes, it is a long time competing and I am still having fun doing it, especially in new locations as Japan. It was a challenging day of conditions, the waves were big and messy, breaking everywhere but once I was out it reminded me of my home spot on a wave I windsurf a lot. Only wave riding was counting so heats were very close, and I am so happy to made it into the final and get a podium, its being a while.

Victor Fernandez in Omaezaki
Maria Andres and Victor Fernandez with Boards in Omaezaki

When was the last time you visited Japan and do you have any special memories from Japan?

My last time in Japan was 2012, I came for an invitational event at Omaezaki and to do some promotion with the brands. I had good memories from here, the windsurfing community is great and I love to see so many windsurfers in the water.

The tour has changed a lot over your career, how are you feeling about 2024 and seeing all the different locations on the calendar?

I like the tour locations we have right now, it is worldwide tour. Last year I missed Japan, so it was hard to come back on the ranking and it was not my best year on tour but it gave me more motivation to train harder through the winter. Next event will be Chile, a place that I love and I will be happy to come back to ride those amazing lefts.

Victor Fernandez in Omaezaki
Victor Fernandez with Grip 4 DLAB and Super Hero SLS

What equipment is in your quiver for 2024 and how does this change from event to event?

Sail wise, I am using 3.4 Super Hero, and 3.7 up to 5.3 Super Hero SLS. Board wise, 76 up to 93 lt Grip 4 & 85 & 95 Grip 3. For example to Japan, I took all my sails and Grip 4 D/LAB 76, Grip 4 SLS 87 and Grip 4 D/LAB 93.

You were using the D/LAB boards and SLS sails in Japan, how does this new technology compare to say 5 years ago and do you think it gives you an edge in competition? 

The gear we have now it is incredibly efficient, it is so light and strong and it covers a huge wind range. I personally like the bigger sizes such as 5.3 Super Hero SLS because I can enjoy sailing in super light winds and the sail feels like a 4.7 in your hands. Boards wise I am also riding bigger boards than in the past, usually on my bigger board Grip 4 D/LAB 93 I use 4.7, 5.0 and 5.3 sails, this boards covers a big sail range for me.

»At the beginning I felt it was a bit of a survival thing, so I wasn’t that selective in choosing my waves, but still I got the highest scoring wave of the women in the event.«

— Maria Andres

Maria, congratulations for starting the season again on the podium, how was the contest for you? 

Thank you! It was awesome to come to Japan once again. The Omaezaki Spicare to me is not only a competition, it is a whole experience. The event is organized so that you can get to know, experience and taste Japan. They invite us to meet local people, visit the schools, taste all the local dishes, visit the temples… They are incredibly friendly, and I have to say I was looking forward to meeting them all again! 

Maria Andres in Omaezaki

For the competition, as it often happens, we did not have the usual high winds conditions of Omaezaki, instead we had a very lightwind challenging competition day. Normally I would prefer surfing conditions rather than high winds jumping, but this was not a normal waveriding day. The swell was big and furious, the currents did not forgive, and the wind was side one and just enough to be sailable. It was difficult (and scary at times!) just to make it out. I decided to focus on one step at a time. First of all, make it out of the shore break, once out in the line up, next step would be riding 2 waves. But making it out there didn't seem anything guaranteed. At the beginning I felt it was a bit of a survival thing, so I wasn’t that selective in choosing my waves, but still I got the highest score wave of the women in the event. Then in the Semis, against Motoko, I tried to be more selective. I got a couple in the bag and then found a peeling one with a few front sides and advanced in first to the finals! 

When it was time to go to the finals, I felt quite confident after the other heats advancing in first, but then… I had the hardest time! I spent 25 minutes just getting washed in the surf and not being able to go to the line up! I thought I wasn't going to be able to sail the final! Eventually, I made it, losing just a couple of minutes and could compete against the other warrior women that were out there! Queen of Omeazaki Motoko Sato, Sarah Hauser and Maria Morales. I got a couple of good ones at the beginning (I think they put me in first for at least half of the heat)  and then, knowing what the consequences of surfing all the way to the shore or making a mistake were (I didn't wanted to struggle in the shore break again during the minutes of my heat), I decided to wait for a nice peeling one and try to make good points out of it. I didn't find one to back up my other scores while Sarah and Motoko earned some good points in the second part of the heat making it in front of me. 

From my personal experience, I liked the feeling of challenging a wild Ocean, to prove myself that I can do it. Not only can I do it, I rode a couple of good ones and I had fun! After those 25 minutes holding my gear like crazy and getting horribly washed right before the final, I thought of giving up… but instead I made it out and got to reconnect and re-focus. I am proud of the fact that I could work on my mindset in these stressful moments. It was a boost of confidence. About the 3rd position, of course it is great to start the season with a good result!

Maria Andres with Grip 4 SLS in Omaezaki

Did you get any opportunities before/after the event to explore other parts of Japan? 

We spent some time with the Duotone distributors, they have been so incredibly kind with us! They helped and supported us with everything! We drove from Tokyo to Omaezaki in 2 days, so we could see a bit around, as well as visited some spots and their shop for some promotion. The windsurfing scene in Japan is huge! It's so inspiring to see how passionate they are, even on the coldest days! The coast all along is full of sails, different disciplines in the different spots. They have amazing conditions! No wonder why they have such good windsurfers! Around Omaezaki we have visited a bit too. It is more calm and rural, something that feels more like home to me, compared to Tokyo, where we will be going the last day before flying back, which seems to me like a visit to the future!

How does the rest of the season look for you? Which events are you planning to compete at? 

About competition, this year I will be doing almost all the stops of the IWT, while I will be doing their Social Media in the events. I am Looking forward to Chile and Peru, both places and waves that I love. I can't wait  to meet some of my local friends! And Maui, of course, it is always my favourite place! If Tenerife happens and I am available, I will probably join! I always have fun in El Medano and I was planning to spend some time around there anyways. 

Maria Andres in Omaezaki
Maria Andres with Super Hero SLS and Grip 4 SLS

What equipment are you using this season and does it change from event to event or is it roughly the same quiver?

It would be great to have different set ups but I have a quiver for everything, and I am very used to it and comfortable with it. I just travel with what makes more sense in terms of sizes depending where I go. Of course I adjust the settings for different conditions, like the positioning of the mast, the size, type and position of the fins…

My everyday board is the Grip 4 SLS 76, I feel very comfortable with it. I also have the 69 and 81, for very strong or marginal winds and bigger waves. Sails I have from 3.0 to 4.7. The small ones are the Super Hero and the medium and big ones are the Super Hero SLS. The sizes I tend to use the most are the 4.2 and the 4.5, of course depending where I spend more time that year… mostly would be home in Spain, or on Maui. In the past I was not so much into having and using a 4.7, since it felt too big and heavy for me. But since some years ago, with the SLS rig components, the mega slim boom and now with the Super Hero SLS, a 4.7 feels like a 4.2 in terms of weight and maneuverability, so it is only about getting used to the size, feeling and the power, while not being penalized for the weight. Now I love to have the 4.7, for those marginal days, and definitely for competition! Last year I ended up using it in all 3 events I participated in!