Interview with ISA World Championship Medallist Yuka Sato: Eastern Promise

A quiet force in the world of SUP, Japanese rider Yuka Sato has recently come into the limelight, having performed well at a number of international events, and even taking the 4th place copper medal at the recent ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship 2017 in Denmark. Like a duck to water, having only taken to the sport very recently, many are predicting that the rather elusive Sato might be a name to watch out for in the years to come. In the spirit of this recent success, we met up with the Japanese rider to get some insight on what her plans are, how her recent performances have spurred her on and what she envisages in the short and long term.

SUP rider Yuka Sato competes at an event in Hawaii in 2016

Yuka Sato, you recently placed fourth overall in the women’s Sprint category at the ISA World Championship in Denmark. How did this feel?

Indeed. I had initially set my sights on really pushing myself in the distance race. I had been practicing and this is something I would have loved to take home. But ultimately, I felt I was outclassed in that event, and Annabel Anderson, Sonni Hönscheid and Olivia Piana took the top spots.

The sprint race took place the following day and I was determined to get a good result. I was very happy with my copper medal.

SUP rider Yuka Sato poses with the Japanese flag at the 2017 ISA World SUP Championship in Denmark

Could you tell us about some of your greatest achievements in your SUP career so far? What titles have made you the most proud?

I took up SUP just two years ago and I’ve been loving it ever since. In 2016, I was very proud to place first in the women’s category at the All Japan SUP Championship. This year, I was also very happy to achieve the top spot at the Kerama Blue Cup in Okinawa, Japan.

I defeated great SUP athlete Angie Jackson from Australia, who placed second, which was really cool. In addition, I placed 3rd in the distance race at the Mercedes-Benz World Cup in Germany earlier this year, behind Fiona Wylde and Olivia Piana. This was another good day for me and it made me very proud.

Yuka Sato poses with fellow Starboard SUP riders at the Mercedez-Benz SUP World Cup 2017

Here in Europe, we’re getting to know you for the first time. Perhaps you can tell us about how and when you began to take up SUP as a discipline.

That is very true, but again, this is only the second year that I’m practicing the sport, so I hope to make progress over time and continually improve.

I only started competing internationally this year after all, so I’m hoping that with some hard work and a bit of luck, I’ll be able to make a bit of a name for myself. Time will tell.

Starboard SUP rider Yuka Sato enjoys a spot of SUP on her downtime

With the ISA World Championship topping it off, it’s been a great year for you so far. What are your goals and objectives from this point onwards?

Well, I couldn’t really do any of this without the help of those around me, to be honest. I am very lucky to be surrounded by a really great entourage, and they have helped me achieve what I have so far in the sport.

From here on in, I suppose my goal is to be better. I’d ideally like to become an established name in SUP at international level, and my objective is to rank even higher at next year’s ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship.

SUP rider Yuka Sato competes at an event in Hawaii in 2016

You’re part of the Starboard team. What kind of activities do you take part in with Starboard?

Yes, it is great to be on team Starboard. Some of the activities I take part in with them include writing regular reports, conducting environmental awareness-raising activities and participating in Starboard promotional events and advertising activities.

Do you have a regular training partner?

In Japan, I train alone. I’m a bit of a lone wolf in this sense. But I’m currently looking for opportunities to train with someone overseas.