If there’s one word coming to mind when thinking of the SUP sensation Rai Taguchi, is RELENTLESS. His explosive comeback from the fall and exceptional buoy turn in the men’s Sprint final at the APP World Tour’s Busan stop went viral and the SUP world is paying close attention.
With the industry being positively shaken with several announcements from some of the world’s top athletes revealing their new teams, there’s a burning question remaining: Who will sign Rai Taguchi? TotalSUP caught up with this uber-talented SUP athlete to look at his remarkable year and see whether he’s ready for a new chapter.
Hi Rai, welcome to TotalSUP and massive congratulations on your amazing season! What’s the story behind this remarkable SUP journey?
My journey started in Poland at the ICF World Championships in Gdynia. I didn’t qualify, so I did more sprints and technicals than the others. We had a very tough battle against very high-level players. I was fourth in the 180m sprint, but I hurt my shoulder. In the distance race the next day, the unimaginably cold weather dropped us to 10th place and in the final event, the technical race, we were able to catch up and finish in 3rd place.
Image source: Planet Canoe / ICF Worlds
Then it was the APP World Tour London Open. My shoulder was still hurting and I couldn’t put enough strength into it. However, in practice the day before the sprint race, I changed my paddling method and challenged the actual race. As a result, I was able to pass all the qualifying rounds in 1st place and finish in 2nd place behind the World Champion Connor Baxter.
Image source: APP World Tour
In the long-distance race, I had a bad start and managed to catch up to 5th place in the second half, but then I fell into the water 1km from the end and finished 9th. Long distance was done on the Thames. There were many galleries along the river, and it was very lively.
APP World Tour Busan SUP Open, due to the Queen Elizabeth funeral arrangements, all the racers’ boards from London did not arrive. I borrowed a board from a Korean female athlete and participated. It was my first time riding a board, so I fell into the water in the final of the Sprint race, but I was able to win. In the long-distance race, it was my first board to ride, so I couldn’t show my power, but I’m very happy with the final result.
Image source: APP World Tour
After these three races, I am grateful to my family who cheered me on live and my father who accompanied me. Also, I would like to thank the sponsors who always support me and the fans who support me. The races I won and the races I lost taught me a lot, and it was an experience that will lead me to next year.
Your buoy turn video from APP World Tour Busan SUP Open went viral! What happened there?!?! What’s the secret to your explosive paddling and speed?
I was very happy when I finished in the first place. When I fell into the water, I thought I was going to lose, but the race had just started, so I thought I would still make it in time, so I gave it my all.
The distance between the buoys was short and I thought that the three in front would be in a melee, so I took a chance without rushing. When I went around the inside buoy, the tail of the person in front was right in front of me, so I dashed at the right time to overtake.
The fact that I was able to calmly think about it and execute my strategy while racing led to my victory. I always do long distance interval practice when I’m training, so I don’t get tired even if I do a long dash.
Image source: APP World Tour
What’s your favourite SUP format and why?
My favourite format are technical and sprint races. I especially like races with lots of turns and surf races. The reason is that I am good at turning and I like riding waves. Also, people watching these competitions can have fun and get excited, so the people doing the races will naturally have fun too.
What’s your local SUP scene like?
A very young generation is working hard on the Japanese SUP scene. The number of kids participating in the sport is increasing. There were many top teens in the All Japan Championship in October and it’s showing a lot of excitement.
How did you prepare for the 2022 season? Did you plan a strategy for each event?
In preparation for the 2022 season’s races, I graduated from high school and in my first year as a pro, I’ve increased the amount of practice. Except for my days off, I practiced twice a day and then went spearfishing in my free time. I increased my paddle practice so as not to give into the temptation of the waves.
Who’s your biggest influence in the world of SUP and why?
The person who has influenced me the most is Kai Lenny. In addition to racing, he’s doing a lot of other watersports and is an advanced player. He has become a successful man doing his favourite watersports. I want to be like him, so I continue to race.
What’s your advice to the aspiring SUP riders who want to start competing?
The most important thing in keeping racing is having fun!I try to enjoy every race to the fullest. There may be times when your mind becomes negative, but when you think of the cheers and the sense of accomplishment when you reach your goal, you will naturally smile.
Could you tell us more about your collaboration with SIC Maui?
I am very grateful to the SIC Maui Team! I was 14 when I joined SIC Maui. They saw me participating in a PPG youth class and called out to me. Since joining the Team, I have had many experiences. I was able to participate in World Tours and World Championships thanks to the board development, photo shoots in Maui, support for competitions around the world, and board arrangements.
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