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Peerless Nia Suardiaz reflects on a stellar year

Spanish 16-year-old phenom’s double world title haul fuels her goal of pushing women’s wingfoiling to new heights

The remarkable Spanish athlete, Nia Suardiaz, landed the Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom world titles, dominating the GWA Wingfoil World Tour in the year she turned 16. She also took the second spot on the pure surfing Wave tour. Between school homework and a downwinder in Jericoacoara, Brazil, Ian MacKinnon asked her to reflect on her incredible year and her hopes for the coming wingfoil season.

Question: You’ve had time to think about your world titles, how do you feel now?

Nia Suardiaz: It’s like a dream come true. I’m super-happy; super-stoked; super-grateful. My parents have been supporting me this whole year. I’m super-grateful also for my sponsors who have helped me come here [to Brazil] to achieve this goal. I couldn’t be happier.

Q: Did you ever have any doubts you could win both titles?

NS: At the beginning of the year I was not too sure. I won the first event in New Zealand, but the conditions were pretty tricky. So, I wasn’t sure about the rest of the year. Or how the girls had improved. I saw Orane [Ceris] really stepping up the game. And in France I didn’t win. It wasn’t my best competition. The conditions were really hard.

Then I started training a lot, and for the Canary Islands I was a little bit more confident. After winning the two events there, I was really motivated for [the next in] Denmark. When I won [the world titles] there I had no more pressure to win the other two events. But Tarifa was amazing. It’s my home spot and it’s so nice to win there too. Brazil, again, wasn’t my best competition.

Q: How do you cope when a competition is not going well?

NS: Brazil was a bit of a weird competition. We had two days when we were supposed compete and it’s a little bit hard. They tell you you’re going to compete, and then not. Then the same the next day. It was two whole days on the beach for nothing almost. The first day was good, really good. I had a good heat. I was really happy. But the next day my scores weren’t the best and the last heat was really tricky—no waves.

Q: In difficult situations like that, do you have mechanisms to help you through?

NS: Not really. I wasn’t putting a lot of pressure on myself because it was the last event and if I didn’t win, it didn’t really matter that much because I was already world champion. I wanted to come here and enjoy it. I already have enough pressure with my school stuff, so I didn’t think about it

Q: After coming so close the previous season, did you think it was possible to win both titles?

NS: No, I didn’t think it was possible. Last year was my first year of competition. I didn’t know how everyone would go. I didn’t know anyone on the tour. But it was a really nice year and I got a second in both disciplines.

I think that was impressive for my first year. I was pushing as much as I could and definitely after that I was thinking I might become world champion if I trained hard and I put all the work into it.

Q: Do you think there are challenges ahead?

NS: Definitely there are challenges at all the events. I’m trying to push the sport, trying to innovate with tricks in the waves. I do the Wave tour, and I do racing, and I do Surf-Freestyle. I’m trying to push the sport. Definitely Orane is pushing the most in freestyle. In racing, definitely Flora [Artzner] is pushing the most. She doesn’t come to all the events because she’s injured, and for next year, I’m not sure.

It was a shame that Orane broke her knee [in Brazil]. Let’s see if she is going to step out. I’m hoping that new girls come and get excited and as motivated as I am to push the sport so that it gets better and better.

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

NS: Definitely, to keep my titles and definitely to push the wave side. I think my wave riding since the beginning of the year in Cape Verde has improved so much. I don’t train in waves as we don’t get them in Tarifa. So, for the time I’ve spent in the waves, I’ve improve a lot. I was pushing in Dakhla, but it wasn’t enough. I hope maybe next year I can get it.

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