Though she’s only now coming into our sight here in Europe, Lena Guimarães Ribeiro is already a highly accomplished SUP rider and a big presence on the Brazilian stand up paddle circuit. In the wake of her convincing victory in challenging conditions at the 2017 SUP 11-City Tour in The Netherlands last weekend, Guimarães Ribeiro gives us the lowdown on how it felt to compete in and win this event, how she first became interested in SUP and where she plans to take it, and what she thinks are the main challenges facing Brazilian SUP riders looking to make a name for themselves internationally today.
Lena Guimarães Ribeiro, you recently won the SUP 11 City Tour in The Netherlands. How did this feel?
All victories are important, but this one was special for sure. It was my first time in a competition involving non-stop consecutive long-distance races over a number of days. As you can imagine, that in itself is a challenge. And this year, the weather conditions were particularly trying. There was an awful lot of wind, rain and it was terribly cold throughout. On the whole, I really had to push myself! That made the win all the more rewarding. I am so happy with it!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What is the SUP scene like in Brazil at this present moment in time?
SUP in Brazil, as in many places, is still very much considered a new and a young sport. But it really is growing fast. Back home, we have a big national championship tour with a lot of great athletes, and the new generation is very promising. When I was younger, I used to be a handball player.
After marrying a surfer, Américo Pinheiro, I moved to Arraial do Cabo (in the State of Rio de Janeiro) in 2011, which is a well-known spot for favorable watersports conditions. It was here that I first began to practice SUP, as well as a number of other watersports. I also have two kids, Kauai, who is 14, and Maui, who is 9.
As a family, the four of us are always on the water, paddling, surfing, fishing, diving etc.
In Europe, we’re only now getting to know you a little better. Can you tell us about your SUP journey so far? When did you first get interested in SUP?
After I first took up SUP in 2011, I began to participate in competitions and I haven’t stopped since. For me, it is very important go to international competitions because there are always a lot of great athletes, making it a great learning opportunity. But so far, it hasn’t been possible to participate as much as I would like.
I am a university teacher back in Brazil and I also have a huge commitment with my kids and my family generally. Another sticking point can be the cost. For us Brazilians, merely getting to competitions in Europe and USA can turn out to be very expensive.
And this is of course where most of the major events happen. So it can be tricky to try to find this balance at times. But we do it for the love of the sport of course!
Could you outline some of your greatest achievements in your SUP career so far? What titles have you won and what are you most proud of?
In Brazil, I have already won some big events and I am the current Brazilian women’s champion. I am so proud to have participated in the Molokai 2 Oahu twice and to have placed 4th last year. Placing 6th in the Carolina Cup this year is also a big result for me, as there were a lot of amazing athletes of all around the world taking part. Others important results for me include:
- The Lost Mills 2017 – 1st place in 200m inflatable board category
- The Lost Mills 2017 – 3rd place in 200m hard board category
- The Lost Mills 2017 – 2nd place in long-distance category
- Maui 2 Molokai 2015 and 2016 – 3rd place overall
- Molokai 4 Molokai 2015 – 2nd place overall
- Poi Bowl Paddleboard Race 2015 – 3rd place overall
- ISA World SUP Championship 2015 – 5th place in technical race
- ISA World SUP Championship 2015 – 6th place in long-distance race
This seems to be a great year for you. Now that the SUP 11 City Tour is over, what is your main objective going forward?
For this year at least, I probably won’t be able to participate in any additional major international events. I’ll just finish out the Brazilian championship circuit. But I’ll be back. Don’t worry about that!
Who are your current sponsors? What kinds of activities do you take part in with them?
My main sponsor is Mistral. With them, one of our objectives is to promote watersports culture generally in Brazil. Even though we have a huge coastline and a lot of lakes and rivers, watersports are not as popular as they have the potential to be.
We aim to work on that! In addition to Mistral, I also receive support from a number of local sponsors, including CamelBak, Advanced Nutrition, Exceed, WindHunter and Sunset.
Who do you usually train with? What is your SUP training regime like?
I always train with my husband, Américo Pinheiro. He is a paddler too and he is my coach. He has been there to encourage me and push me since my very first day on a SUP board. Without his continued support, none of this would have been possible.
I paddle 6 days a week and I also train in other ways, by cycling, running and going to the gym regularly. As a nutritionist, I really take care of my nutrition, and this is a crucial part of my training too.