Rai Taguchi figurehead of Round 2 of Starboard Dream Team Recruits

The wait was short and sweet to find out which brand would sign Rai Taguchi after he put an end to his collaboration with SIC Maui. Starboard has just confirmed through an announcement listing not one but four additional names to the 2023 Dream Team, that the young Japanese athlete was now officially part of the Tiki gang. Indeed three other up-and-coming athletes complete this new round of SUP race recruitments following a first announcement by Starboard made a month ago. Here they are!

Japan // Age 19

Rai Taguchi, the exciting new force that has exploded onto the SUP tour in spectacular fashion. The 19 year old professional SUP racer grew up on in the beautiful sea of ​​Okinawa Island in Japan, a prime location for developing his waterman skills. He has been immersed within the ocean since he was just 4 years old, enjoying all the water activities the islands waters has to offer him such as snorkeling, spearfishing, swimming and surfing. Currently, Rai is expanding his sporting activities as freediving fisherman. When he’s not training or competing, he is also working hard to train Japanese Junior SUP athletes.

Short history in the sport
Rai has been a fan of SUP racing ever since he won his first kids race when he was 12 years old and before long, winning the ICF SUP World U18 Championship at the age of 16. His belief is “never give up no matter what”. Living by this motto has pushed Rai to achieve top results in various international competitions.

Rai has not only shown stellar pedigree in SUP racing, but recently has also been attracting the attention of Japan’s top SUP surfing riders.

Why Starboard?
“Starboard is the largest company in the industry. They are not only developing fast boards, but also continuing to be environmently friendly. I am attracted to their corporate philosophy. And I am proud to be part of the Dream Team. I’m looking forward to racing on Starboard, which is always on the podium!”

Whats big for 2023?
The 2023 season is looking really fantastic and glad we will now be able to travel the world without restrictions. I’m spending a lot of time on the water this year with special focus in become World Champion. And I want to compete with various athletes in many countries. I am confident that the 2023 season will my best season yet.”

Notable achievements

– All Japan Championship Distance 1st

– ICF World Championship U18
– Distance 1st
– Technical 1st
– Sprint 2nd

ISA World Championship U18
– Technical 2nd

– ICF World Championship Poland
– Sprint 4th
– Technical 3rd

APP World Tour London
Sprint 2nd Place

APP World Tour Busan
– Sprint 1st
– Distance 1st

9th SUP Race All Japan Championship
– Technical 1st
– Distance 2nd

9th SUP Surfing All Japan Championship
– Longboard 2nd
– Shortboard 3rd

2023 competition plan

I plan to participate in as many APP World Tours as possible.

Alicante, Spain: 21st – 23rd April
Santa Monica, USA: 23rd – 25th June
Viana do Castelo, Portugal: 14th – 16th July (pending their final decision on dates)
Busan, Republic of Korea: 7th – 9th October

The other three events have yet to be announced. I plan to participate in those competitions as well.

I plan to compete in the ISA and ICF World Championships.

We also plan to actively participate in domestic competitions, including the All Japan Championship.

Norway // Age 20

Thomas has grown up near the ocean mostly in Southern California but also some in Norway where he now lives. In southern California he was active in water sports at a young age including outrigger canoeing, sailing, junior lifeguarding, surfing, and SUP.  In Norway, he was sailing in the summer, and cross country skiing in the winter. Currently, Thomas trains as much as he can balancing studies and SUP.

Short history in the sport

It was at Mike Eisert’s The Paddle Academy, where Thomas was introduced to SUP racing at the age of 12 and where he developed his skills and love of racing. Thomas paddled with some of the best junior SUP paddlers in the World, and the southern California weather allowed racing all year round. Since returning to Norway, after many years of living in SoCal, Thomas has been getting used to paddling in Viking conditions.

Why Starboard?

I have been paddling a Starboard Allstar since it was recommended to me by Coach Mike at age 14 of the Paddle Academy. I have tried other boards over the years, but could never change because Starboard makes the fastest boards. When you have the best equipment, it is hard to change brands.

What’s big for 2023?

In 2023, I am planning to race more locally in Scandinavia and hopefully help establish a Norwegian Open race in my hometown in Norway. I also want to start a local SUP club and introduce kids to SUP racing. Sports are very popular in Norway, but SUP racing is not really known here yet. I want to make it known.

Notable achievements

Since Norway does not have a Norwegian Championship, Thomas took a ferry to Sweden to “win” the Swedish Championship races held there in the summer. In the European Championships, Thomas advanced to the A final in the Technical and placed top 10 in the downwind distance.

2023 competition plan
– Hanohano in Mission Bay, California, competition completed January 28
–  Carolina Cup if the school schedule allows for it
–  Malmö Ocean Race Swedish Championship (June)
–  Danish Championship (June)
–  Swedish Championship in Skrea Strand, an ICF event (August)
–  ICF World Championship in Pattaya, Thailand (November)
–  ISA World Championship

As you can see, I plan to race some of the bigger local races (Sweden and Denmark), but as the budget allows, I will try to also race some more of the Danish SUP tour.

Spain // Age 21

Fernando is a 21 year old athlete, 3 x Spanish SUP race Champion, he has lived all his life near the beach at southern Spain doing variety of water sports. He has been dedicated to sports and healthy lifestyle, that’s why at the moment he’s finishing his degree in health and sports science. Fernando is very competitive, he has always been trying to push the limits and while still having fun.

Short history in the sport
His father was a water sports lover, so he was fortunate of having the opportunity to follow his father steps and took surfing as a first choice when he was 7 years old, but at 15 years old finally he found paddle racing, since then, he has been fully focus on racing and developing his skills to the best level.

Notable achievements
– 7th ICF long distance 2022
– 5th in the eurotour ranking
– 3rd GlaGla race 2022
– 5th ISA tĂ©cnical race U18
– 3 x Spain long distance race
– Spanish  technical championship
– Spanish sprint championship
– Spanish sup team member

Why Starboard?

I consider that starboard is the top brand of this sport with technology and design so I’d be amazed to race with the best materials and be partner of the best riders in the word

What’s big for 2023?

In this 2023 I would like to do a big achievement on the ISA worlds and also in big races here in Europe like the euro tour or App World Tour but for sure I want to keep on traveling and enjoying more this sport


Liran was born and raised in Israel, by the Mediterranean sea. He started his way in water sports at the age of 10 in windsurfing. His father brought him to the first lesson, and since that moment he has not be able to stay away from salty water. During his windsurfing career Liran joined many competitions, as a result he ended up the European Champion twice and also twice he took 3rd places in World Championships.

Liran always had a passion for waves, and it brought him to Hawaii in 2012, where he tried SUP for the first time, and where for the first time he took part in a SUP competition (IMUA Paddleboard Maui Race) and got 3rd place. After that he moved on with SUP surfing, practicing every day in his home country, and in the of 25 he opened his own SUP & SURF school in Herzliya, Israel, where besides the other instructors he is still giving lessons and sharing his experience with his students from 7 to 65 years old.

Liran went back to competitions in 2019, when he has taken part in a range of Eurotour events and has finished 10th in World SUP Festival Costa Blanca in Spain, 6th in Corfu Emerald Cup in Greece, 3rd in Eurotour SUP Race in Eilat in Israel, 1st in Tianfu Greenway SUP Open in China, with the 14th place in overall Eurotour 2019 Rankings. He finished the competition season 2019 with 9th place in the long-distance race at ICF SUP World Championship.

Besides everyday trainings his true passion is his SUP & SURF club, which is growing and developing every year with his care and management. Now everyone can experience the excitement of extreme sports there: the club offers lessons for kids and adults, beginners and experienced surfers, there one can find surfing, SUP for beginners, Wave SUP, SUP Race, SUP yoga, Windsurfing lessons from experienced teachers, as well as the club organize a range of SUP & SURF trips along the year to different Asian and European countries.

Notable achievements

– 9th place in long distance race at ICF SUP World Championship 2019
– 1st place in Tianfu Greenway SUP Open in China 2019
– 3rd place in Eurotour SUP Race in Eilat in Israel 2019
– 6th place in Corfu Emerald Cup in Greece 2019

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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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