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Garazi Sánchez, one step away from the Olympics: “Now I enjoy surfing much more than before”

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The story of surfer Garazi Sánchez (Algorta, 1992) is from a movie. Just after being champion of Spain, runner-up in Europe and ranked 22nd in the world in 2018, she had an accident during a training session on the French beach of Hossegor. Her legs were paralyzed and, after ruling out paraplegia, she faced a spinal injury for which she had to undergo surgery several times. Throughout 2019, he could not get on the table, but in 2020 he found himself with the strength to return to competition. The extraordinary? Only one year later, she is once again at the ‘top’ of surfing and is one of those selected to participate in the 2021 World Cup, where the places for the Tokyo Olympics are disputed.

But that milestone doesn’t just happen by magic. Garazi’s formula is: work, perseverance, patience and, of course, a lot of love for what he does. The Biscayan started surfing at the age of seven and that water sport hooked her so much that it became her profession. Even during that forced stop, it was connected to the sea. Since he had free time, he decided to invest it in creating a documentary short film called ‘Shame’, whose objective is to learn and show how our way of life affects the state and conservation of the oceans.

In the final stretch for the World Cup, which is held in May in El Salvador, Garazi Sánchez finds a space to answer our questions and give us some tips for beginners surfing.

You have been selected to go to the World Cup, how is your day to day training for such a competition?

I am very happy and proud to have achieved this place after my injury last year. The training consists of adapting to the conditions of surfing and supplemented with a lot of yoga and meditation to manage stress. The rest continue to improve every day.

Do you see yourself at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics?

I am aware that it is difficult to get there, but if I did not believe that I could achieve it, I would not get up every day to train.

I am very happy and proud to have achieved this place after my injury last year

All the surfers selected for the World Cup have just been in Morocco and your photos look like the typical idyllic trip with your gang. Do you have a good vibes in the team?

We are lucky that surfing, and being surrounded by nature, makes us have a very good atmosphere in the team, we complement each other very well.

You made the documentary ‘Shame’ to better understand the ocean and the impact that humans have on it, what did you learn?

The clearest thing I have is that each of us has an individual responsibility with respect to the environment, in addition to demanding the collective responsibility that governments and companies have. Of course, each of us has in our power to improve, being also flexible and tolerant of changes, because everything takes a process.

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Do you usually dive to see the depths of the sea or do you prefer to stay on the surface?

When I suffered my injury, it was when I came closest to discovering the depths and, since then, I have understood that to enjoy the surface you have to know what is inside.

I have read that once you were rescued with a zodiac because a shark was hovering around you, what do you feel when you see such an animal so close?

I’m not going to lie, I felt very, very afraid, a feeling of being very small, because the ocean is their home and we are their visitors. In that situation, you have little power over what the future holds.

I have surfed with dolphins on the beaches of Australia

What is the most impressive thing you have seen while surfing?

A family of dolphins, I played with each other while surfing waves during a breathtaking sunset on the beaches of Australia.

Where in the world have you seen the most beautiful sunset on the table?

One of the most beautiful is the one at my house in Getxo, on the Galea cliff there are sunsets that have nothing to envy anywhere else. But also in Maldives there are impressive ones.

The most special wave of your life?

It was the first one I caught after my operation, when I realized how lucky I have been to be able to slide over the sea again.

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How has your life changed since that injury?

My life has changed for the better. Although it is the typical thing that is said, I am more aware of how lucky I am. The shock has helped me reconnect with my inner child and see things as when I was little.

And what did you feel when you were back on the crest of the wave? In a literal and metaphorical sense, because not only have you returned to surfing, but you are once again among the best in the world.

The injury has given me a strength that I didn’t know I had. All this experience has made me see that the human strength and the ability to overcome that we have is infinite. And also that, if the operation had not gone well, I am still the same person, whether or not I am among the best in the competition. And the latter gives me a freedom that makes me enjoy on the table much more than before.

The injury has given me a strength that I did not know I had

You are an example of overcoming, what would you say to someone who is in a similar situation to yours during 2019?

The message is the same that I learned from the documentary ‘Shame’: individual responsibility is very important. Everything you can do for yourself you have to do it, give everything of yourself to achieve what you want. Then there are external factors that influence, but at least have the peace of mind that you have tried everything. This does not mean that the obstacle is overcome, but I do believe that it is the only way to achieve it.

What is the best and the worst thing that surfing has given you?

As in many things in life, the best and worst that something gives you is usually very close or they are the same. The best thing is the feeling of fullness and gratitude, but sometimes it has made me fall prey to that, because without surfing I don’t know how to feel the same. I try to achieve the balance: make it my own decision and enjoy it, but not need it as much.

What does it mean to you to be the face of Levi’s new sustainable jeans campaign?

I feel very comfortable in the new Levi’s jeans because they are so versatile and fit my lifestyle so well. The step towards sustainability is very important, less is more in this case because the use of less water and fewer chemicals means more care and more respect for the environment. Being able to buy your favorite jeans while being consistent with a more sustainable lifestyle is a joy.

What is your favorite ‘look’ when you are out of the water?

A top and a high-waisted jean, barefoot on the sand, feeling the wind and salt on her face.

Some questions for COSMO girls who want to start surfing

What do you think is the best beach in Spain to learn to surf?

Spain has great beaches to learn to surf, the important thing is that it has good sand and that you have the company of a good friend or teacher to teach you.

And the most dangerous?

The most dangerous are those with large rocks, such as Galea, or some from Galicia. You have to enter the sea very prepared and with great respect.

Under the neoprene, bikini or swimsuit?

I have to confess that I don’t usually wear anything under the wetsuit, nobody really wears it. It is the best and most comfortable.

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Any trick to get you up on the board?

The 3-step trick always works: lie flat and row, hands at chest level, pick up the leg, and jump up. It is best to train outside the sea and rehearse the posture in the sand. And, above all, have a good friend to help and advise you.

Stretching so as not to have so many stiffness the next day?

Stretch lumbar, shoulders and neck. Not only for the stiffness, but to keep the joints healthy and to be able to return to the water the next day.

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