Last year Japanese SUP Racer and new Starboard recruit Rai Tagushi left a lasting impression in the world SUP Racing community by securing a double win at the 1st edition of the Busan SUP Open in Korea, one of the most remarkable performances of the year 2022. As we approach the 2nd edition of this prestigious event set to take place on Gwangalli Beach on Octobre 7-9, we had the privilege to catch up with Rai and gain insights into his reflections on last year’s competition, his expectations for this year, and the challenges and triumphs he’s encountered along the way.
Hello Rai, last year you made quite an impact at the 1st edition of the Busan SUP Open with a double win and a technical race final that everyone remembers. How do you reflect on that experience and what are your expectations for the 2023 edition?
Last year I was on the SIC team but unfortunately, boards logistics were delayed in London because of the Queen’s death and my board, like many other athletes’ boards, did not reach Busan in time. Despite that challenge, the APP, KAPP team and locals helped us to find a solution and I got a Starboard board as a replacement so I could compete. It was my first time riding a Starboard board, and honestly, I was quite nervous since I was not used to it. In the Sprint finals, I fell right at the beginning of the race, but I stayed calm and did not give up. I put all my determination and energy in and managed to come back from the last to the first position, I was so stoked!
My determination is strong and I will keep doing my best to get the best result!
Congratulations also on your victory at the 1st Asian SUP Championships in Seoul this year! Korea seems to be treating you well. Does this contribute to your overall confidence and strategy for the Busan SUP Open?
The Asian Championship in Seoul was also an awesome competition and just like the Busan SUP Open, the KAPP did a fantastic job in organizing that event. I really love to come to Korea to compete, and winning all the races there helped boost my confidence for sure. The conditions in Busan and Seoul are different which brings variety when racing. The race in Seoul is on the Han River, so the water is flat while in Busan the water can be flat and choppy, but I like both formats and locations.
Having experienced the Busan SUP Open last year, can you paint a picture of the event location for us? What are the unique aspects of the venue, and how do you think the atmosphere will differ this time around?
Last year’s Busan SUP Open was a fantastic competition. The KAPP did an amazing job and welcomed us in the best way possible. During the event, we had the chance to participate in the opening ceremony just like it is done during the Olympics, went paddling at night in the Busan bay with city lights in the background, got on a yacht and watched the special drone show they prepared for us, it was surreal!
The venue itself reminds me of the Shonan region in Japan, which has a similar feeling. It is gorgeous with the bridge on one side and the city on the other side, with the waterfront filled with lots of cafes and restaurants. I really like the atmosphere there. The competition venue itself was incredible, a pool so that people can experience SUP, the stage and its big screen, booths with many brands, a food corner, an area for spectators to cheer us all and even a dedicated area for the athletes to rest and warmup!
Last year was a great success, especially given it was the first time an international SUP competition was organized in Korea, and I believe more athletes and their families will gather in Busan for this year’s competition!
What weather and water conditions are normally expected in Busan?
It seems the weather in October is still sunny and warm with temperatures around 15 to 20 degrees. When there is no wind, the sea is quite flat but it then becomes choppy with the wind coming in.
The Busan SUP Open features both a Technical Race and a Long Distance race. Which of these two races are you most looking forward to, and what aspects of your training have you worked on this year to improve in each discipline?
I transferred from the SIC team to the Starboard one this year. Honestly, I am struggling quite a bit with my first dugout Allstar board. Having ridden the flat-deck SICRS for nearly five years, I struggled considerably in this year’s APP sprint races format.
For long distances, even though I am not satisfied yet with my performance, it is progressing towards the right direction and I keep training.
A new flat deck board, the Gen’R, has recently been launched by Starboard and I already train with it. It is really a versatile board and I want to win the Sprint races in Busan using that new board!
The long distance in Busan is a 10 kilometer course, so it is quite a short one. I am confident I can paddle at a fast pace right from the start and all the way to the finish line.
You’re currently sitting in 6th place on the overall 2023 APP World Tour Rankings before heading to Busan. What are your goals with the APP this year?
Of course, my goal this year is to win the championship, but this year is a challenging one. It is my first year since I transferred to Starboard and my priority is to get the full potential of the boards and get to know the team better. I am only 19 years old and I keep learning!
The APP World Tour is really fun and it takes me all over the world. I am always grateful to the team and all the people working on the venues doing their best to deliver an amazing event!
The APP World Tour and KAPP emphasize the cultural and tourism attractions of each location. As a participant, do you find yourself looking forward to immersing in the local culture and experiencing the tourist offerings in Busan? How do you strike a balance between competition and exploration?
I travel around the world to race and even though winning is the top priority, I think it is very important to get the chance to experience other cultures, know the history and get to know the people of the country you visit. Then, parties before and after the competition are a very good opportunity to interact with athletes, competition officials and fans. For those reasons, I always plan to participate in such events, visit as a tourist and get to know more about the culture as much as possible. Korea has a special place in my heart and I have many friends and fans over there. I’m really looking forward to seeing them again in Busan this year!! Thank you!!!
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