When a team of talented young SUP athletes paddles this hard (“to the last breath”) and with this much heart, the world takes notice as it did at the 2021 ICF World Championships in Balatonfured, Hungary, when the Spanish Junior Team swept the world titles in the long distance and technical races. The newly crowned Junior World Champions, dubbed the Spanish Storm (La Tormenta Espaniola) by the TotalSUP Editor-in-chief himself, sparked discussions about Spain being on a fast-track to becoming a major player on the SUP racing scene.
With the bar raised high for future national SUP squads craving championship titles, one particular question has never been more valid – What is the secret to building a winning SUP team?
TotalSUP caught up with a young and ambitious Spanish athlete and SUNOVA Rider Manuel Hoyuela Rojas, who not only paddled superbly for the win with his junior team but also brought home a Silver Medal in the Men’s U18 Long Distance race and Bronze in the U18 Technical at ICF Worlds.
With a solid background in surfing, Manu, known as the “Fish kid” (Niño Pez) on his local SUP and surf scene, goes beyond the SUP success and chats about “dreams and grit” that are his top drivers.
Hi Manu, welcome to TotalSUP! Congrats on your amazing achievements in the Junior division!
Hi, thank you so much. The 2021 season was really amazing. I still can’t believe all those things have happened.
How did you get into the sport of stand-up paddleboarding?
I’ve loved the ocean since I was a kid and I spend all summers surfing. One year there were no waves I saw some people doing a strange sport for me, they were paddling, standing up on a board. I thought that it would be a perfect hobby I needed to enjoy the ocean that year.
It all started when I met Paulino Cayón. Over the years he has become a key person, not only in my sport life but also my personal life. He is now a part of my family. Thanks to him I have learned to love all disciplines of the sport: sprints, beach races, long distance and SUP surf. It’s because of him that I can’t choose a favourite one now. I love all of them no matter how wild the sea is.
You’re based in a beautiful part of the world… Cantabria, Spain… Could you tell us more about your location and why it’s great for paddleboarding?
I live in Suances, a little village located in the North of Spain where SUP has been around for a long time.
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These last few years I have travelled a lot, not only around Spain but also to France and Hungary… I’ve seen some amazing places with awesome landscapes but every time come back home (Suances), I realize how much I love it. You can enjoy all type of conditions in this area. When there are no waves we can still paddle on flat water, but when there are – they’re the perfect waves. We have a lot of beaches to practice beach-races and there awesome windy days for downwinding… Suances is my SUP paradise!
Could you tell us more about the growth of the discipline in your country?
SUP has exploded worldwide and Spain has special conditions for practicing this sport. We have different locations with different type of conditions: on one hand we have the Mediterranean zone, where the ocean is quieter. This is perfect for training every day, especially for kids. There are a lot of schools with professionals who teach kids the sport we love. We have an amazing number of kids competing, learning and enjoying SUP.
On the other hand, in the North of Spain, where I live, the ocean is wild and the winds are strong and cold, and it rains frequently. The conditions are tough but with the work put in and discipline it’s possible to practice SUP here.
In my humble opinion the key to success is having role models near you, if you have a bunch of riders you admire close to you and they are kind people, you can talk to them, ask them for tips and the most important thing, keep having the dream that one day you’ll paddle like them.
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Could you tell us more about La Tormenta Espaniola (The Spanish Storm) at the ICF Worlds in Hungary
Hungary… A lot of good moments and feelings come to my mind when I think about Hungary.
“The Spanish Storm” is what Mathieu Astier (TotalSUP Editor-in-chief) called us because of the results and the performance of the “Spanish junior squad” was at the ICF championships.
Believe me when I say Hungary was a dream for us, we never thought we would have been world champions. We are all kids who have been competing against each other for a long time. We have struggled to become Spanish individual champions year on year, we have grown up together like rivals, and yet this year we had the opportunity of paddling together, this time as team mates. We paddled together and we helped each other with the only objective of bringing to Spain the biggest number of medals we could. One thing was clear and the most important thing for the team: “The triumph of one, is the triumph of all”. We wanted to win the “teams competition”, and we did it. It was a dream come true.
So… Hungary was a unique experience which has motivated us to keep working and dreaming with big common goals, like a team.
Could you tell us about your collaboration with SUNOVA?
I have liked SUNOVA for a long time. I remember that the first time I saw a SUNOVA board competing was in Bilbao, during EuroTour. Noic Garioud was there, flying on his “flat water Faast Pro”, I fell in love with that board but… It was crazy when he climbed on the podium with the board wonderfully disassembled and in that moment I thought “this brand is something else”.
In 2021 “Wind Paradise” gave me the opportunity of being part of their team and representing SUNOVA in Spain. It was another dream of mine. Throughout 2020 SUNOVA and “Wind Paradise” has supported me a lot. I have always felt welcomed and a part of their big family.
Last January, I received a call from “Wind Paradise” with good news that I would join SUNOVA International Team in 2022! It’s absolutely crazy and I am so happy…I can’t believe it.
I love SUNOVA because it’s an ocean inspired brand with a lot of wooden board options and a great philosophy behind it. They also have incredible flat water board models and absolutely awesome SUP surf designs.
What are your SUNOVA boards of choice?
I’m lucky to have a great quiver thanks to the SUNOVA and “Wind Paradise” team. My race boards of choice are: Allwater 14×23 for racing in all type of water conditions and for flying in white water races. Flat water fast pro 14×20, a real rocket in flat water races, it’s a super explosive and reactive board. Then Torpedo 14×24… oh that board makes me crazy… It’s the perfect option if you want a board to have some fun surfing and doing beach races. The Ocean fast pro 14×24 is great for sailing on the ocean and doing some awesome downwinding.
My SUP surf boards are: Speed 7,3×23, or how I lovely call her “the door”, it’s a square nose board for surfing small waves or a perfect option when it’s windy and the last one is the Wedge 6,11×24, “my beauty” – I love this board, it’s really small and with low volume, but it’s super fun in all type of waves.
Photo: Albert P. Laborda
Could you share your 3 top tips for aspiring SUP racers?
I think the first one and the most important is “dreaming”. If you can dream it, you can do it.
The second one is, “work”. Without putting the work in your dreams won’t come true. I have “WORK AND DREAM” written on all my boards – it’s all for me.
The last tip would be: “no matter how well things go, don’t forget to be humble”. It’s really important because things may go well but the next day they can go wrong.
What are your SUP racing plans for 2022?
I am pretty sure that the nearest race I will take part in will be the “Sella SUP race”. It is one of my goals this season because I’ve ridden it since I was 14 and this year I will be able to race it in the open category.
I will compete in the Spanish Championships in all different disciplines: Granada for “sprints”, Murcia for “long distance”, Somo for “beach-race” and Gijon for “SUP surf”.
I will also go to the ICF World Championships in Poland. I would really love to represent Spain in Puerto Rico and Denmark at ISA World Championships, but this is not up to me, so I will keep dreaming on it and trying to be my best version.
I will go to every local championship here, in the North of Spain, because these are the races I really enjoy as I get to meet all my friends.
I’ll be returning to Paris in December because I love with this race – my last year experience was absolutely amazing.
I will visit France to compete in some other races too, because I did Vendee Gliss, Bordeaux and Paris and I had big fun there. I’m sure there will be more races in my calendar but we’ll see…
Thank you very much for your time and good luck with the 2022 Season!
Thanks a lot! See you at the races enjoying the sport we love.
To find out more about SUNOVA, visit sunovasurfboards.com
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Follow Manu Hoyuela on Instagram
*All images courtesy of Manuel Hoyuela Rojas