© Jackie Fiero
When she was just 16, Mahina Maeda made headlines in the surfing community when she tow-surfed Nazare, becoming the youngest woman to do so. Now 22, Mahina, who hails from the North Shore of O’ahu, Hawaii, has accumulated three World Junior Championship titles and competes as a pro surfer representing her parents’ home country of Japan.
Mahina has also just joined the team at the Vitamin Sea Collective, a female members-only online community from the all-women team behind SurfGirl Magazine. The site focuses on the positive benefits of the ocean and covers fitness, surfing, wellbeing and nutrition, with live classes and tutorials where experts such as Mahina share their knowledge and tips.
Looking ahead to the Olympics next year, I put some quick-fire questions to Mahina on training, Nazare and Japan 2021.
#1. Tell us how you got into surfing and at what age you started?
My father took me surfing out at Sunset Beach when I was about 4 years old. I rode on the board with him with floats on and pink goggles and absolutely loved it.
#2. You famously tow-surfed Nazare at the age of 16. What was it like to surf the biggest waves of your life in your early teens?
Surfing Nazare was a strange experience as I hadn’t set out that day to catch a wave. I’d just won my 3rd World title and was spending the day on the backup ski watching two boys I was on the trip with for the World Juniors. Everything was unexpected; going into the water and being on the ski, and then catching the wave.
#3. Let’s talk training. Does each surf session have a specific training objective or do you make time to enjoy yourself on the board too?
Any training I do always has a purpose. I train four days a week and also teach Ginastica Natural classes on top of that. I do a lot of water training such as swimming, breath holds, etc. Plus Ginastica Natural, jiu-jitsu and self-defence. These activities get me to really engage and think a lot. Almost like a math problem but physical. I also work with Ross Williams for surf-specific training.
#4. How important is the mental side of your training?
Mental health is everything, whether you’re an athlete or not. But as an athlete, it’s almost heightened as you’re more susceptible to take things the wrong way or to feel emotional. It was great to have Marc [Atkinson, coach] help me recognise this during COVID.
#5. Surfing is joining the Olympics for the first time. Is 2021 qualification on your radar?
I’ve just arrived back from a trip which was a qualification seed for the ISA team for JAPAN. I ended up winning it and getting the last spot! At first, I wasn’t too excited about whether I was participating or not. But now, I’m really hungry for it. I’m just going to think in small steps and really focus on the ISA and we’ll see what happens from there.
#6. What does a typical day in your life involve?
Surf, train, eat, naps, and maybe baking.
#7. What’s your favourite type of wave?
My favourite type of waves are punchy waves like Rockies.
#8. Do you ever get nervous ahead of a big event?
I do, but surprisingly in the last event which was the JAPAN OPEN I felt really good and calm. I really trusted my surfing, and all the work I did before and had a lot of confidence.
#9. You’re part of the new Vitamin Sea Collective. Can you tell us more about what this is and how you’re involved?
Vitamin Sea Collective is a new members-only global platform which focuses on the positive benefits of the sea. Covering nutrition, health, wellbeing, mental health, surf, yoga and more. It’s an empowering space for all women to come together to learn from real professionals, interact with instructors and have access to engaging live classes, workshops, tutorials and materials.
I will be sharing surf tips and my knowledge in the water to help those learning to surf or looking to improve to reach their surf goals. I’m all for women supporting women – definitely head over and check out the website as there is so much going on and the live classes are much needed in a world of covid-lockdowns!
#10. What are your favourite items of kit, and who are you sponsored by right now?
I love using ‘It’s a 10’ for my hair – it smells amazing and keeps your hair healthy. I also have small goodies like SexWax, sunscreen, etc. And I am obsessed with pouches from the ALOHA collection.
I’m sponsored by kakaku.com, fais un rêve, Baby- G CASIO, SEXWAX and DOVE wetsuits.