The first time I saw anything about Miyako island was about two years ago.
Andrea Cucchi and Matteo Iachino sailing near a bridge over impossibly blue water!! What a sight. Not something you’d expect from Japan right? So when I got the invite for this event I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.I’ve been to Tokyo once and most people visiting japan will only go there, but how many people will be able to say they’ve been to those tropical island in the south of Japan? Fun fact! People in Okinawa, which is the bigger island near Miyako, live over a hundred years old.
Getting to Miyako felt like an odyssey. I did two 10-11 hour flights in a row before having a lay over in Tokyo. I got there in the afternoon with the dutch editor Mart. Obviously we had to check out town, so we went to shibuya crossing. It was a funny process finding the right metro ticket and transferring at different stations. Apparently japanese people have a hard time to say no, so even when they mean no, their head will still shake yes” which left our jetlagged and foggy brains confused. We finally figured it out with some help with people on the subway. Had some rice and noodles in town before finding our way back with our sleepy heads, catch 4 hours of sleep before our last flight to Miyako.
It took me 3 flights and about 50 hours in total before I could stretch my legs and set foot outside the airport in Miyako only to arrive at the beach and feel like I never left home haha. The water was gorgeous and there was a welcoming breeze. Guys like phillip koster, bjorn, andrea cucchi and boujma were there as well.
As often happens with events we didn’t get the winds that blew steady before and after the event. We definitely did our best to get the best conditions though: The day the event kicked off we did a prayer on the beach according to “shintoism” for windy conditions. It was a very long prayer finished off with a Saké toast at 11 in the morning. I didn’t see that one coming haha.
For the Défi the wind limit is 15knots, so that all participants, from amateur to pro can enjoy the course.
We did a lot of fun races which required a lot of pumping. The cool part about this is that the lighter riders have the advantage and get the fulfillment of passing the heavier and faster riders. To me it creates this fun competitive bantering atmosphere on the beach.I mean, I can’t lie, when will I ever be able to beat Dunkerbeck in a race? So even for me that was really fun!
I didn’t do well in the first fun race and instantly that racing mindset kicked in and I was fixing my downhaul, outhaul, base position boom heights etc. You know, Just in case they wanted to do another “fun” race. Apparently I take fun races quite seriously. Talking about taking fun seriously. The Japanese took “rock paper scissors to the next level for me. On a windless morning they held a contest at the beach. Thirty people against one main guy and everyone could win prizes. It was a real showdown. This one guy won 4 times and only seemed to win when it mattered. He won a life vest, harness and boom!
“Yan, Ken, Pon” was my theme for the rest of the week, I was randomly challenging everyone to a mini match. After three days of fun races, a good breeze kicked in and we could make things official. I exchanged my 8,6 and 127L for my 7,8 and 107L board. Which is probably my favourite setup.
The rabbit start sometimes had me cringing. I was worried about some riders jumping the gun and smashing into the boat! Thank goodness that didn’t happen. Phillip Bru knows how to manage the start well.
It’s tricky to time the start exactly right but then still have to wait for the boat to come past. I nailed that start twice. That felt awesome. All the other days we had to pump on to the plane, but flying over the line at full speed is that feeling I love most about racing. I was powered on my 7,8 and medium board and I was so stoked about having windy conditions that I was hooting of enjoyment down the first half of the leg. That adrenaline rush!! Looking back to all those sails is also very beautiful. I finished first in the women and overall 6th in the first race and 9th in the second. I went back to sign out for the second race only to learn I forgot to sign in because I was too focused on the races and I just don’t have the habit of signing in and out. You get disqualified for not signing in. It’s a safety regulation and Défi’s number one rule. Woops!
Andrea cucchi who was also leading the men’s division apparently made the same mistake! What a bummer. The only thing we could do was hope for a fourth race, which would mean a discard. So I was still very determined and again did well in the third race.But clouds started moving in, the wind started shifting and that was it for the day.
So instead of 1st in the women’s and 8th overall ( 81 competitors), I finished somewhere in 30th. Which was a bit of a sour ending knowing I did really well. But maybe knowing that is enough for me. Except for that I really wanted to take home a trophy because I find it’s the best souvenir as it usually represents the country and it’s culture. In this case it was a badass blue dragon made out of porcelain! Oh well. A postcard from the airport will have to do this time. Finally Yuki, Ayako and Haruna completed the women’s podium and Ludo, Nico and Tomohiko completed the men’s.
The first time I went to japan it was already quite impressive and exotic for me, but this time was that much better. It was a fun event and everyone was more relaxed. We had our fair share of cultural experiences with amazing japanese dinners, Drumming dancers and dancing dragons.We’d go out for dinner every night and I really got the chance to mingle with the locals, because they were also the people I was competing with on the water. I had a blast and left the event with a feeling of gratitude, happiness and a funny habit of yelling “kampai!!” ( cheers) and bowing my head every time I say yes and thank you.
Big Thank you to Neilpryde, Starboard and Brunotti Japan for taking care and helping me out with gear! I tell you, Japanese Hospitality is really something else.
And thank you to Phillipe Bru and his team for creating such a fun event 🙂
Make sure to catch the video below that really captures the vibe of the event.
So it seems the season is soon to kick off. I’ll be off to Bonaire to get ready for the freestyle world cup that will take place from the 9th-13th of April.
See you then!