In November 2014, when she was only 16, Mahina Maeda was “trapped” in XXL surfing Nazaré. How, you ask? All it took was a white lie from Garrett McNamara, and then Maeda found herself rolling down the face of a 30 footer.
“I wanted to try, but I was too scared to say ‘let’s do it’,” Maeda explained. “Uncle Garrett decided to tell me my dad told me to catch a wave. I should have known it wasn’t true. [Laughs.] Long story short, he tricked me into catching a wave, and I got towed into the biggest wave of my life. [It] I felt like I was going down a roller coaster and couldn’t scream. After my two outings, I was hooked.
It was almost a year to the day after the Brazilian surfer and big wave pioneer Maya Gabeira almost died at the same place. (Gabeira continued to hang a world record for the biggest wave traveled by a woman in 2018.) But Maeda was at the top after winning the World Junior Championships in nearby Ericeira, Portugal. So after the composition she decided to stop in Nazaré – and it turned out to be a hell of a way to celebrate.
Since then, Maeda has been working on the WQS in hopes of doing the CT – and also a spot on the Japan Olympic Surf Team for 2021 (she grew up in Hawaii, but holds dual citizenship with Japan). To learn more about this rising star, magic seaweedJason Lock gave her a ring. Check out his Nazaré Bomb and their conversation below.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up and where did you learn to surf?
My name is Mahina Maeda, I am 22 years old and I was born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu. I live in Sunset Beach, Hawaii and part time in Chigasaki, Japan. Both of my parents are Japanese and I can speak English and Japanese. My dad taught me to surf, I think of one or the other Sunset or Haleiwa.
How did this trip to Nazaré arrive?
I was 16 at the time. It was my first WSL world junior title in Ericeira, Portugal. They ended up finishing the competition earlier. And I was traveling with the boys who stayed with me and my dad [Barron Mamiya and Kaulana Apo].
We wanted to go surfing and sightseeing and go see my uncle Garrett McNamara. Uncle Garrett was two partners with my father. It was more like a reunion at first… until we decided to go surfing. The second day was huge and the boys were doing jumps. Finally, he got fat. Long story short, he tricked me into catching a wave, and I got towed into the biggest wave of my life.
He cheated on you? How? ‘Or’ What?
At first, I was confused. Then after watching the boys on the rescue ski, I felt comfortable in a way. I wanted to try, but I was too afraid to say, “Let’s do it”. Uncle Garrett decided to tell me my dad told me to catch a wave. I should have known it wasn’t true. [Laughs.]
Sitting in the Nazaré alignment was almost a little strange, but in a good way. And going down the biggest wave was like going down a roller coaster and not being able to scream. After my two walks, I was hooked.
Do you consider yourself a big wave surfer?
I will not tell. It has been a while since I caught a wave like this. Any real big wave surfer should do this consistently. But with the world on hold, I find myself exploring this region again.
What type of waves do you like to surf?
Left … I think being on the QS, I’m so sick of going to the right. I still like certain rights, like Haleiwa or Honolua. But I like more punchy waves and waves with long walls like Fiji and the Rockies.
Talk about the Olympics – you are hoping to participate in the Japan team and not the USA, why?
Honestly, leaving the Hawaiian flag was really tough. Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing and I am very proud to be born and raised here. Having the Hawaiian flag next to your name gives you a great sense of pride. I learned to surf here in Hawaii and you see it mana. Since I have dual citizenship with America and Japan, it was a difficult choice to make.
Finally, I chose Japan. Japan has the feeling of a samurai or a warrior and an attitude of humility, so having both origins gives me great spiritual strength. I am extremely proud to be both Japanese and Hawaiian. Going to the Olympics would be a great accomplishment and I think I would represent both of my nationalities. But above all, I want to qualify for the tour. If I have the chance to compete in the Olympics, I will work very hard to represent.
What do you think of surfing at the Olympic Games in general?
When I think of sport, it’s the Olympics. I believe that surfing being part of the Olympic Games will be beneficial for our sport. For years surfing was considered more of a hobby, but I think it will open our minds and help them really enjoy our sport.
“Since I have dual citizenship with America and Japan, it was a difficult choice to make. I am extremely proud to be both Japanese and Hawaiian.
Have you surfed Shidashita, the Olympic site in Japan? How is it?
Yeah, and uh… it’s a good wave. The wave fluctuates a lot with the tide and the swell. It’s not the worst wave, but it’s not the best either. The good thing is, it’s a very consistent wave for Japan. Japan is really dependent on typhoons. But this place is somehow breaking down all the time. And all the Japanese guys are still there, whether it’s an inch to four feet and up.
For young women who want a career in professional surfing, what advice would you give them?
Do not read comments on social media. [Laughs.] I would say work hard and hold on. A woman can be that person to watch in programming. In the right direction. But that doesn’t mean burning people or snaking them. It means acting strong and being respectful. And people will realize that you are not a random person.
Do you think the industry can do more to better support female athletes?
I’m lucky to have good sponsors outside of the industry, but I think some women sometimes struggle to get solid support. The WSL equal pay initiative is a big step in the right direction.
Finally, we heard that you gave Jordy Smith some workout tips using the techniques of Ginastica Natural – tell us about that.
I decided to get my Ginastica Natural trainer’s license when I was 18. My mentor, coach, hanai dad Kid Peligro works and teaches at Sunset Beach Jiu Jitsu. But before that, I trained with him for two years. So for the past four years I have worked alongside him. We had amazing athletes who came to train. And Jordy being one of them.
This interview first took place on magic seaweed.