A Champion’s Farewell: Bruno Hasulyo’s SUP Racing Legacy

In the world of professional SUP racing, few names have shone as brightly as Bruno Hasulyo‘s. Just three weeks ago, this 29-year-old international sensation shocked the SUP community by announcing his retirement. As we sit down with Bruno, he reveals the profound motivations behind this surprising decision, how he meticulously contemplated the right moment to step away, and his excitement about embarking on a brand-new chapter in life.

Bruno’s unwavering dedication to the sport has reaped significant rewards, including the 2017 Long Distance World Title, 5 World Championship podiums, over 20 international podium finishes and, of course, 6 victories at his favorite race, the SUP 11 City Tour. In this exclusive interview, he shares insights into the unique physical and mental preparations that have underpinned his illustrious SUP racing career. With a plethora of accomplishments and a trail of records in his wake, we delve into Bruno’s most cherished moments, his favorite training spots, and the philosophy that’s led him to success. As he retires from professional racing, Bruno looks forward to new challenges and a future that promises to be as exceptional as his past.

Hello Bruno! You took everyone by surprise 3 weeks ago, announcing your retirement from professional SUP Racing. What has driven you, and when did you begin contemplating to take your decision ? How are you embracing this new chapter in your life?

Hello Mathieu. This was a completely conscious decision. I’ve always believed that it’s best to step out of the competition when you’re still in your prime, achieving results that will be remembered by everyone. I didn’t want to fall into the category of “has-beens,” especially with the younger, more “hungry” competitors emerging. At 29, with over 9 intense years of a professional career behind me, I’ve traveled the world, earned world championship medals, and stood on international podiums over 20 times. Records, innovations, and reforms are associated with my name. I believe I’ve become a hallmark in the world of SUP sports. For me, this image is complete, and that’s why I’m seeking new challenges.

Competitive sports have taught me a lot. Perseverance, the ability to fight, respect, humility towards work, the art of winning – all of these will be invaluable in the next phase of my life.

Merely 4 months ago, you broke your own speed records in Austria. Additionally, you finished 4th in one of the most competitive ocean races of the year in Spain. You’ve just won your 6th SUP11cityTour… it seems like you’re (back) in top form. Are you sure it’s the right time to retire?

Yes, I’m in very good shape, and yes, I can say with complete certainty that it’s time to move on. I feel that my sports career is complete, and so it’s the right time to wrap it up.

I no longer feel that rush that provides the extra motivation in competitions. Winning another SUP race doesn’t excite me anymore. Moreover, dealing with the 14-foot boards and airport hassles are no longer a part of my life. Additionally, the SUP sport is evolving, there are positive trends, and there are things I can’t identify with. But we’ll see what the future holds…

Thinking about your career, which are the most memorable moments or achievements that stand out to you, and why?

It’s incredibly challenging to pick just a few from the multitude of successes. However, if I had to choose, one of the standout moments for me was winning the gold medal at the 2017 ISA World Championship. I defeated Connor Baxter, one of the world’s best and a source of motivation for me. Connor, by the way, remains a very close friend to this day, to the extent that many people sometimes mistake us in photos. It’s worth noting that at this world championship, the elite of the world was present: Titouan Puyo, Michael Booth, Mo Freitas, Arthur Arutkin,  my brother Daniel, Lincoln Dews, Beau O’brian…

Equally significant for me are my second-place finishes in the World Championships, both organized by ISA and ICF. Perhaps not many remember, but I have two 4th-place finishes in technical races at the World Championships and a seemingly extreme 7th-place finish in the 200m sprint race.

Following the World Championships, I could mention the Bilbao race, where I once again managed to outdo the legendary Michael (ed. Booth) with a fantastic sprint to claim the top spot on the podium. An interesting aspect of this victory is that it was the last Bilbao Iberdrola SUP Race. Unfortunately, this race has since been discontinued. So, it’s my last victory!

I’ve won 3 times, and I currently hold the record for victories in Namur (ed. a Euro Tour event)

The beginning of last year was marked by a powerful winning streak at the Glagla Race. -… And last but not least, the Paris Crossing race. 1, or I believe, 2 victories, and 1 or 2 second-place finishes. Did you see these?

I won the “Lake Rocks Festival” race in Faaker See, Austria with a course record recently, which I thoroughly enjoyed this year.

Lastly, and I saved my personal favorite for the end, which is also the most bittersweet and dear to me, the SUP 11-City Tour victories. This means more to me than just ONE race! Friesland became my second home, and I hope it will remain so for many years to come.

I participated in this ultra race 8 times. Every time, I stood on the podium. This in itself is a record. But the real world record is that I am the only person in the world who has won this distance 6 times. This race is the ultimate challenge of challenges! It requires at least 2-3 months of conscious preparation, and 4-6 weeks of recovery. So, every year, it demanded serious time and energy investment.

As you can see, my results span a wide spectrum, but I can confidently say that the longer distance races were my true favorites.

Throughout your career, you’ve competed and trained in many locations around the world. Which are the competition venues and training spots that hold a special place in your heart?

The first pivotal point in my career was New Zealand. During the year I spent there, with the guidance of Jeremy Stephenson, I got to know the true essence of the ocean – the waves, the tides, and the many wonders of nature. It opened up an entirely new world for me, and from then on, I looked at nature in a different light.

The next significant stop was Bali, where I had the opportunity to train with Dani (ed. Daniel Hasulyo) under the guidance of my parents/coaches for nearly two years. It was here that the SEPA training and SEPA paddling technique came to fruition, and during this time, Dani and I (SUPBROz) became the sibling duo that defined world competitions.

Then came the major shift when I left the Starboard team, and from that point on, Europe, and specifically Porto, in Portugal became the defining place in my life. The Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean shaped who I’ve become in the last four years.

These are the locations for both life and training that have defined these years.

As for competition venues, I’ve already mentioned them above. Naturally, the good competition venues for me are where I’ve achieved success. I think that’s only natural.

I recall witnessing your rigorous training routine in Barcelona, where you dedicated yourself to three daily training sessions and even incorporated lunar cycles into your workouts. Could you provide some valuable insights into the distinctive physical and mental preparations that shaped your journey in the world of SUP racing over the years?

Throughout my career, my mother was always my lead coach. She is highly trained in sports sciences, and I followed her SEPA Biodynamic Training Method. This method is based on nearly 30 years of professional experience and is entirely different from traditional Western training load theories.

The SEPA load theory combines certain aspects of Western traditional load theory with Eastern holistic, astro-physiological load theory. The SEPA Biodynamic Training Method integrates science with chronobiology, astro-physiology, and high-level western training theory. Through this, the body is able to handle and perform much more optimal, high-quality training without overloading and injury.

The Biodynamic Training Method takes into account three interrelated and interdependent factors:

1.            The physical exertion and limits of the body’s capacity for stress.

2.            The efficiency of paddling technique and its impact on the body.

3.            Mental resilience based on the first two factors.

Since my mother is not only a master coach but also a master physiotherapist, she optimised the paddling technique with anatomical considerations. We simplified the cyclic movement characteristic of SUP paddling in the most efficient way possible, eliminating any unnecessary movements that caused time loss (rotation, deep bending…) and increased the risk of injury. We focused the load on the major muscle groups, making the leg and core muscles predominant in my paddling technique. With these changes, I was able to increase my paddling frequency to 65-75 strokes per minute and maintain speeds of up to 10 km/h for hours on end. Our theory was validated as more and more athletes started adopting a style reminiscent of the SEPA paddling technique.

Do you have any regrets or unfulfilled goals?

I’ve never really thought about this. It’s not in my nature to dwell on the past and look for mistakes. I’m fundamentally a positive, problem-solving person who always seeks new challenges. So, I’m content with my sports career, and I don’t feel like anything is missing.

Many aspiring athletes look up to you as a role model. What advice would you give to young athletes pursuing a career in SUP racing or any other competitive sport?

I’m glad if I can motivate others, and I feel honored to be seen as a role model. I don’t really want to say grandiose or clichéd phrases. What motivates each person is different, and what worked for me may not necessarily works for someone else.

My father once said that it doesn’t really matter what I choose to do in life, but to be the best at it, and then I can be a successful and happy person. So far, that’s worked for me, and I’ll continue to follow that. I’ll strive to be the best at whatever I do from here on out.

Looking back on the years spent with Daniel as SUPBROz, then with Lightboard Corp, Xbionic, and BR1… do you think leaving Starboard four years ago was the right decision?

Daniel and I had wonderful training and competition seasons together. To this day, we remain the strongest and most successful sibling pair in the SUP market. (I know, the Noic brothers are coming up now, but I’m talking about the present day.) Our healthy internal sibling “rivalry” propelled both of us towards our biggest goals and successes.

Then came the departure from Starboard, which was not an easy decision. Many know that both of us have matching TIKI tattoos… but I had to make this tough decision. While most SUP athletes aspire to be part of the Starboard Dream Team, I felt at the age of 24 that what Starboard had to offer wasn’t enough for me, so I chose a new path.

It was a real leap into the unknown without a safety net. I left behind a secure base for an uncertain opportunity. Perhaps many wouldn’t have taken this risk.

Of course, there were difficult periods, but time proved me right. Over the years, I built my own SUP board and brand, BR1. The world’s lightest racing board is associated with my name. ICF even made rule modifications because of me, so that the leading SUP brands in the world wouldn’t be at a disadvantage due to my very light boards.

Numerous records are linked to my name with the hollow board and new paddling technique. I couldn’t have achieved these results if I had stayed with Starboard. So, looking back, I have no regrets. It seems the saying holds true that challenges propel you forward and have the potential to make you great.

What are your future plans and aspirations now that you’ve retired from professional racing? Do you see yourself staying connected to the world of SUP in any way?

In the coming period, I’m starting to build an entirely new career, which actually began a few months ago. However, I won’t be completely detached from the world of SUP. In terms of SUP, my goal is to further develop the BR1 board and place greater emphasis on supporting young talents and team building. The launch of new boards is also in the works. I’ll share more details soon.

As for my new career outside of SUP, I don’t want to reveal specifics just yet, but I can assure everyone that my plans are anything but ordinary 🙂

About the Author

Mathieu Astier

Mathieu is the hyper-active founder of TotalSUP and a multilingual online marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience working for top international internet companies. His love-at-first-sight for Stand Up Paddling in 2013 led him to build one of the leading online media dedicated to SUP in English and French and to turn his family lifestyle towards the ocean.

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