Watermana 2018 Athlete Profile: Jurgi Zulaika

Expect Nothing, be ready for EVERYTHING! The Watermana is fast approaching! 14 athletes were chosen and awarded tickets for the Watermana event in December by TotalSUP, in partnership with Air Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Tourisme. Based around individual endurance and team events including disciplines such as SUP, prone paddleboard, open water swimming (and many other which will be a surprise), it is a true waterman’s event. Basque native and athlete Jurgi Zulaika was awarded a ticket for the event.  TotalSUP talks to Jurgi Zulaika about his water sports journey, and the excitement surrounding being awarded a ticket for the Watermana!

Hi Jurgi, Can you tell us about your water sports journey?

When I was young I used to be a keen swimmer, but had to stop when I started university.  I am new to prone boarding, I came into the sport after learning about an endurance prone paddleboard race from San Sebastian to Capbreton which is 35 miles and I always told my dad I wanted to test myself in that race on  prone board. For SUP I started 4 years ago, when I was 21. I got into SUP racing after racing in a beautiful SUP-bike-trail triathlon.

How has your season been?

This particular year has been a little rough since my training partner and sister was diagnosed with Lyme disease, a condition that stopped her training. All of the family has been focused on supporting her in her recovery, and training was secondary. Also last winter was really bad in the Basque Country, we had really strong wind and it was cold everyday.
I spent the first few months of the year swimming in the pool and then competing in the swimming nationals, achieving some good results. Then in May, when the weather got better I started SUP and prone paddle training. But it was when I got the chance to go to Tahiti that I started training hard. I won the Spanish SUP Marathon Championship a couple of weeks ago and then took part in the Medoc Waterman Challenge in France, such a fun event and good preparation for the Watermana.

What did it feel like to be awarded a Watermana ticket?

Living the Watermana adventure was a dream that both my sister and I had for a long time ago. Winning these tickets has been the opportunity to make this dream come true. But the most exciting thing is that my sister is coming with me to Tahiti to support me from land. This ticket is a big motivation to train hard and push my limits.

Have you started training for the Watermana?

I started training as soon as I heard there was a chance to go to Tahiti. I bought a prone paddleboard and started mixing it up with my regular SUP workouts. Now that the SUP Nationals have finished I have a few months to be fully focused on working and training. I am training 6 times a week with two workouts a day. Prone is definitely my weakness, so it will be main goal to improve my prone performance.

What do you expect from the Watermana?

To expect anything is the first rule of the Watermana haha! I know I’m going to be in a paradise, I know I’m going to suffer as I have never done before. I know it’s going to be mentally and physically very hard. But I don’t want to have any expectations. I coach a small kids group twice a week where we improvise a workout and we all have to do it no matter what. It is fun and at the same time prepares you to “expect nothing, be ready for everything”! And I can tell you kids have a lot of imagination!

Are you going to win?

Winning is a dream that every athlete has, but I think this race is about living an adventure, suffering with the other athletes, and pushing ones limits. My goal is to give all I can in every race and start and finish every day with the stoke that I will have as soon as I land in Tahiti! Finishing the race in a good position so to allow me to return next year will be a great result!

Are you excited about visiting French Polynesia?

All the people I talk with tell me that Tahiti is  paradise! I will try to visit Tahiti, Moorea and Huahine, but I know there’s much more I should see. Unfortunately I can’t take more days off work. I come from the Basque Country, a cold and rainy place where people are cold and introvert. The people I have met from Tahiti is very welcoming and extrovert.
I am really looking forward to meeting all the people involved in the Watermana and the islands! It is great that the athletes and the Watermana has the support of Tahiti Tourism and Air Tahiti Nui, so that we can be part of their lifestyle and culture. Thank you to all that people that made possible this and TotalSUP for the chance to be part of this adventure named Watermana!
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