Ryohei Yoshida: A Conversation on SUP, Fatherhood, and Winning Championships

Today on TotalSUP, we dive into the life and experiences of Ryohei Yoshida, the renowned stand-up paddle athlete from Japan. Having recently clinched the prestigious ICF SUP World SUP Mens Technical 40+ Title, Ryohei shares his insights on balancing his roles as an athlete, husband, and father. From his training routine in the idyllic coastal city of Nago, Okinawa, to his affiliation with the SIC Team, Ryohei paints a vivid picture of the paddling scene in Japan while highlighting the country’s remarkable athletes. Join us as we explore his motivations, goals for the future, and his journey as a multi-faceted individual reaching new heights in the competitive world of SUP.

Hi there Ryohei! Welcome to TotalSUP! How is the new year starting for you so far?

2024 has started at a slow pace. It has been very calm and warm this winter in Okinawa. This year, I am focusing on surfing to improve in-out techniques, basic physical strength, and smooth body movements.

Are you still based in Nago City in Japan? What is it like to paddle there? Paint a picture for us!

I live in Nago City, Okinawa with my family. Nago City is surrounded by the east and west coasts. Both coasts can be reached within 30 minutes by car, so you can enjoy the sunrise and sunset while surfing. You can choose the best location for surfing according to the weather and what you would like to do for the day!

Okinawa island is surrounded by coral reefs, so the sea is blue and clear, and there are many tropical fish and turtles. You might also see dolphins and sharks. There are also reef breaks scattered throughout. There are relatively few surfers, and the people are very friendly and helpful to visitors. Surfing is only possible at high tide, but paddling can be done all day long. The seawater is very warm, and never drops below 20°C even in winter.

When did you join the international SIC Team? What is your go-to SIC board that you ride?

I joined the global team in 2023. I am very proud of myself to be a part of the SIC family. The whole family has great personalities, and I feel very comfortable here. Until a few years ago, the RS was the only choice for SIC race boards, but RS still has the best total balance and it is my board of choice. It is easy for anyone to handle, and to compete in most race conditions. You can also surf on it, so it’s a “magic board” for me. It can be used for all kinds of purposes such as racing, surfing, cruising, etc.

You are not just a SUP athlete, but also a husband, a father! How do you balance it all?

I try to help and support my family and friends as much as I can. I understand, and have an interest in my wife’s work, children’s school, hobbies, etc. We talk, go for a drive, exercise, enjoy watching movies, cook meals, and enjoy eating out together. As much as I give my family support, they do the same for me, and allow me to focus on paddling.

You have some pretty incredible accomplishments in the world of SUP, especially with a recent win at the ICF Championships in Thailand in the men’s 40+ Technical Race! Congratulations! What does this win mean to you?

I’m very happy to have won this most exciting technical race with so many spectators watching. I think this inspired many Asian athletes, especially in their 40s and 50s. I was able to achieve my goal of becoming a source of motivation for those who have enjoyed racing in the past and those who are about to start SUP racing. I think more people will start SUP, not only among the younger generation but also among people of the same generation as me.

What are your thoughts on the Japan racing scene? Your country seems to have some incredible athletes!

I think one of the major characteristics of Japan is that Japanese retailers and associations provide support and dedication to all users and athletes. Their positive attitude of proactive work and ethics towards users and players has touched the hearts of many players. I think that’s why many paddlers have become great athletes.

We’d love to know – What does your training routine look like? Do you paddle with any groups or clubs at home?

Basically, I try to do extensive training on the weekends. On weekends I train for about 3 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. If my schedule allows, I often practice with Rai (ed. Rai Taguchi). There are few opportunities to practice with a big group. I decide on the training menu according to sea conditions. When there are waves, I spend most of my time riding with a race-board in and out of the waves. I use the 100% dash to ride long to the end over and over again. It can train skills such as board control and physical strength. If the wind is strong and the conditions are good, we will do downwind paddling for about 10 km to 15km.

I try to train hard both physically and technically. On weekdays, I don’t have time, so I try to focus more on training within a short period of time. During my lunch break at work, I spend about 30 minutes doing core training, stretching, and body weight training to improve my body’s functions and flexibility. I haven’t been doing heavy-weight training because I’ve had a lot of injuries lately. Then in the evening, after work, I train for about an hour, and do as much actual paddling as possible. It depends on the day. I do training to include long-distance training, sprint, and intervals of 1~3 km. When I feel tired or in pain, I go for a run for about 5 to 6 km. When I have some family plans or need to give a ride to kids, that is my off day.

What are some goals you have for 2024? For racing, for yourself?

My goal is not to win the race. My goal is to compete with athletes who respect each other, and to paddle a race where I can maximize my abilities in the final sprint. This requires a healthy state of mind, a healthy body, and the support from my family. If I manage to get everything aforementioned done, that means I am reaching all my goals. I’m looking forward to competing again with great paddlers from all over the world and will do my best this year.

Thank you so much for your time Ryohei and we’re looking forward to your upcoming racing season!

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About the Author

Maddi Leblanc

Maddi Leblanc is a Niagara born, Canada-based stand up paddling athlete for Team Canada, SUP instructor, and lake surfer. Maddi is also the events and community co-ordinator at Surf the Greats. She has been paddle boarding for over ten years, competing in SUP for seven years, and surfing the Great Lakes for seven years. She is also a masters alumni from Brock University in Recreation & Leisure Studies. Find her on Instagram.

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