Nadia Erostarbe: Spanish surfing rides the Olympic wave | Sports

Spanish surfing will be represented in the Olympic Games for the first time in history, and will do so after securing three of the four direct places that were distributed at most per nation in the recently completed World Cup in Puerto Rico. Andy Criere, Janire González and Nadia Erostarbe, who achieved the best national classification in a world championship with her fourth place, will represent Spain in Tehaupo’o, the exotic, distant and peculiar wave of Paris 2024 located in Tahiti, the island of French Polynesia lost in the immensity of Oceania.

“I was 15 years old when they announced it, and I saw it very, very far away,” Erostarbe, 23, explains to EL PAÍS about the moment of the inclusion of surfing in the Olympic program in 2016. “This has brought a lot of financial aid for surfers, and we saw it as something interesting for everyone,” adds the Basque athlete, the main exponent of the first generation that has been able to count on professional scholarships and dedicate themselves fully to the discipline. Despite the rise in surfing at both a recreational and professional level, and the fact that the Spanish Surfing Federation has seen public aid skyrocket since its inclusion in the Games – going from 200,000 to 700,000 euros between 2016 and 2022 —, the peculiarity of Tehaupo’o makes it an unknown wave for many of its protagonists who will ride it five months from now.

The venue for surfing’s second appearance at the Olympic Games is more than 15,700 kilometers from the French capital, and has nothing to do with the watered-down break of Tokyo 2020 that served as the discipline’s letter of introduction. Tehaupo’o, literally “wall of skulls”, is the recurring dream and nightmare of any surfer. Erostarbe and González, 19, have never ridden one of the enormous—and lethal—tubes that rise more than 15 meters above the bucolic coral reef. “It is a wave that gives a lot of respect. It is a mixture of fear and desire, you want to overcome your limits. For the girls it is important, since they have only recently started surfing that wave even at the level of the professional circuit,” states the new world number four.

“We need to train the tubes with Nadia. I think we are going to travel there (Tahiti), have fun and enjoy the process,” says González, her friend and neighbor. From Zarautz and Zumaia respectively, neighboring coastal towns in the Basque Country and a long surfing tradition, both share countless anecdotes in and out of the water. Also with the latest to join the party, another product of the phenomenal Basque youth team. Criere, born in Hendaye 28 years ago, was the last to get the Olympic ticket after falling short of the grand final in Puerto Rico, and he will be able to give very good advice to his traveling companions.

He did visit in 2022, thanks to a trip organized out of his pocket with the help of his sponsors, the cathedral of surfers. “I wanted to satisfy several needs. First, my hunger as a surfer, and then, a dream as a child. I also wanted to make a place for myself there, visualize myself in the wave and understand everything it means, start to answer what type of boards I will need, what a high score will be and what feeling it generates to be inside it,” he comments on that initiation to a break that he and his companions define as “emblem.” Even for the best in the discipline, the colossal mouth of water is too intricate to tame without some scares involved. “Very few can reach that wave and not get wet, and that says it all,” says Criere. “I got wet, of course I got wet,” he adds with a smile.

“About us?! The fucking masters! Let’s go!” shouted the entire Spanish team on the podium in Arecibo, a coastal town located in the north of the Central American country, on Sunday. This was his war cry before each session under the Puerto Rican sun and waves, in what has been the best championship in its history. The team achieved fourth place combined and third in both the men’s and women’s categories, in a World Cup dominated by Brazilians Gabriel Medina and Tatiana Weston-Webb, two of the leaders of the World Surf League circuit, the elite of the discipline. . Currently, Brazil and the United States act as absolute powers, and they were both the ones who shared the first Olympic golds in Tokyo.

Despite the monumental milestone, all members of the Spanish team know that the most complicated part of the challenge still lies ahead. “There are no waves similar to Tehaupo’o,” Erostarbe recalls. “Now we will have to focus everything on making tubes, first on beaches and then taking trips to Tahiti, starting with the wave when it is small and then progressing, working on it and getting bigger and bigger.” They have five months ahead of them to tame the untamable, a true force of nature that will give another dimension and perhaps the definitive push to professional surfing in Spain.

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