Rio Waida’s World Tour qualification broke a long-standing hoodoo for Indonesian surfing. Despite arguably having the best, most consistent waves on the planet, the surfing mecca has never produced a WCT surfer. We tracked down the godfather of Indonesian competitive surfing and former pro surfer Tipi Jabrik, now President of the Asian Surf Cooperative, to understand what this means for Indonesian surfing and to find out a little more about their new star, Rio Waida.
Tracks: What does Rio’s qualification mean for Indonesian surfing?
I understand that the ASC in conjunction with the WSL was also able to circumvent these challenges to some degree?
With all these issues, the ASC has placed a focus on hosting more events in Asia so that we can only qualify with events in Asia. We are looking to work with the Philippines, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Taiwan to host more events in our region so we can qualify from there and select a few events to travel outside of Asia in the future.
ASC helps a lot of surfers to travel in Asia right now and that shows with Rio, that’s how Rio qualified. During COVID the WSL came to us and said Indonesian surfers cannot qualify unless they surf in an Asian QS. The only event was in Japan and the government didn’t let people in so we held a QS 1000 and Rio qualified for the Challenger Series by winning that event. No matter what, we always try to find a way for our top surfers – like Rio and Ketut – to shine in the world.
From what I understand you have played a personal role in nurturing Rio’s talent. Can you give us a little insight into who he is?
I remember Rio when he was about 6-9 years old. He moved to Bali when he was 5 years old. He was born in Japan and surfed a lot in Japan, but the problem is that they live a bit far from the coast there, so they decide to move to Bali because it’s a challenge for them. Since moving to Bali, they’ve become close with the Legian crew, the Padma Boys, and surf there almost every day. They live in Jimbaran so it takes them 15-30 minutes to get to the beach but they surf all day, usually on the beach when mom takes them away. When Rio was 9 or 10, Quiksilver picked him up and I’ve become more and more involved. I was the team leader at the time. I brought Rio to the Gold Coast and said things to him like, ‘This is Kelly Slater, shake his hand and tell him your name.’ I gave Rio a lot of opportunities as a kid to be confident, because if you don’t have a mentor, you’re going to sit on the corner and do nothing. You need someone to guide you.
Can you give us an idea of the amount of work that goes into behind the scenes to get an Indonesian surfer on tour?
We are also very involved in the personal sponsoring of athletes. Companies will be asking the ASC what to do in terms of strategies, events and beyond that we are coordinating everything in our power for each athlete’s success. To find a way to tour the world in a country like this, you have to work with a lot of people; local communities across Indonesia, the industry, the surfers, parents. Surfing is such a new thing in the eyes of the mainstream Indonesian that you can’t imagine how much work it is. Having Rio at the Olympics also really helped by showing the nation and government that surfing is a big part of the sport in this country.
Now with your first surfer on the World Tour what are the short and long term goals for the ASC?
We want to consistently provide a good platform for all surfers and get them to follow Rio’s path. We need more surfers for Rio. He can’t be a lone wolf. He needs a few people around to travel with him. Imagine being a Brazilian and traveling alone? It won’t be as strong a result as it is now. A platform for the WSL level is planned. We want to make sure more people qualify for the Challenger Series by completing the QS 5000 in Indonesia. We already have a few of these.
We are also promoting a club event for board riders. We have an Indonesian surfing league. Last week we held the finals with 17 surf clubs, around 1000 members and 215 surfers in five divisions in the finals. We want to push the Indonesian surf league up from the under ten mark. We’ve seen the success of the Australian boardrider culture and Australia plays a big part in how we do our movement here.