Indonesia Surfing Towards the Olympics

Rio Waida. Photo: Hain

With Tokyo 2020 less than a year away, and the sport of Surfing being included for the first time in history, we thought it would be timely to get an update on Indonesia’s prospects from PSOI President Arya Subyakto, a person who has worked tirelessly over the years to get Indonesian surfing on track for a shot at the Olympics. Without any prior arrangement, Bali Belly knew precisely where to find the man affectionally nicknamed “Om”, meaning “uncle”.

Om Arya

Om! Every time I drop by Legian beach youre in this exact spot with the squad. You guys must really like eating sandwiches? 

(Laughs) It’s convenient because our hotel is just behind those trees back there. The Swich sandwich stall is just a bonus… try the schnitzel burger!

Been getting any waves? 

We’re actually looking for junky, challenging conditions. There’s a strong current and fat left out front… perfect for training but nothing that would interest your readers.

So, what are you guys training for? 

We’re preparing for the upcoming ISA World Surfing Games in Japan this September and the South East Asian Games in the Philippines this December.

Heat Drills at Legian Beach

Who’s on the team? 

We selected our two best guys currently on the QS, Oney Anwar and Rio Waida, as well as Ketut Agus, a young talent who won the Nias Pro last year. On the women’s side we have Dhea Natasya, Diah Rahayu, Taina Izquerdo, and Pua Johnson as a reserve.

The SEA Games have additional Male & Female Longboarding divisions which will be contested by Arif Nurhidayat “Mencos”, Dean Permana, Dhea Natasya, and Ficka Dirgantari.

How was the selection process conducted? 

First, we considered the contest venue: Which of our surfers suit the conditions there? Second, how have they been performing on the QS? And third, how’s their attitude towards coaching and development?

Oney Anwar. Photo Hain

Why has it taken so long for Indonesian surfing to secure government support? 

Here’s the thing: our surfers perform well at WSL events against the world’s best – Rio even beat Gabriel Medina in a heat at the Keramas CT – but the Indonesian government isn’t interested in individual events; they gauge sporting success by medals at what we call “multi” events. The lowest level multi-event in our region is the SEA Games, followed by the Asian Games or Asian Beach Games, then at the top is the Olympic Games.

Has Indonesia performed well in these multi-events? 

We won 3 gold medals in surfing at the 2008 Asian Beach Games hosted by Bali. That was the first time in history the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized surfing as a sport. Unfortunately, last year when Indonesia hosted the Asian Games the organizers canceled surfing at the last minute for no reason. Skateboarding still got the green light though.

Dhea Natasya. Photo: Hain

Rio Waida. Photo: Hain

Does skateboarding receive more support than surfing? 

Surfing gets what they call Category 3 funding while skateboarding gets Category 2 funding because they won a silver medal at last year’s Asian Games. Badminton would be an example of a Category 1 sport because they have won gold at the Olympics before.

How’s the funding process work? 

In order to get funding, every sports discipline needs to become a member of the National Sports Committee (KONI), which is tough to get into. In 2007, we formed Persatuan Selancar Ombak Indonesia (PSOI) as the governing body of surfing in Indonesia. It became recognized by the ISA, which is backed by the IOC. We went through years of meetings with government officials in pursuit of KONI membership. Then basically due to surfing being included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics we finally got some funding, thank god.

Which countries are competing in the SEA Games? 

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and believe it or not, Myanmar.

How’s the format work at these events? 

The format for SEA Games hasn’t been confirmed, but ISA is the same as a regular event: 4-man heats, 2 best waves, top 2 surfers advance, but the cool thing is everyone gets a 2nd chance in the repechage which feeds back into the main draw.

Dean Permana. Photo: Hain
Ketut Agus. Photo: Hain

How much funding did you manage to get? 

It’s enough to cover our training for the next few months. If we can win gold in the SEA Games we should be able to get increased funding, which could go towards year-round training and sending Indonesian surfers to QS events as part of their development in the future.

What are the team’s main expenses? 

Most of the budget will go towards traveling to Japan and the Philippines for the events. Flights, hotels, cars, food, registration fees. PSOI is covering the expenses, not the surfers themselves or their individual sponsors. Several of the surfers are from outside Bali so we flew them here to bond and train as a team. We’re also working hard to make sure everyone is on suitable equipment, which we pay for in some cases when they don’t have a board sponsor.

Priority: Man in Green!

Will an Indonesian surfer compete in the Tokyo Olympics? 

We have a chance. From the 4 spots available at the ISA World Games this September, one is reserved for the highest placed Asian competitor. So if Oney, Rio, or Ketut can place higher than any Japanese or other Asian individuals, they’re in. Our last chance will be in the 2020 ISA World Surfing Games before the Olympics where the top 4 surfers will gain entry.

Who’s on the coaching staff? 

We have Rizal Tandjung – he’s an accomplished pro that put Indonesian surfing on the world map. He’s helping to get everyone’s boards dialed in for Japanese conditions, which he’s really familiar with. Dylan Amar was Rip Curl Asia’s surf team manager for years then became a professional coach. Tipi Jabrik is the man behind the Asian surfing tour and consults for the WSL in our region. And myself, a WSL Asia Region Judge, Longboard coach, and President of PSOI. Also, Hudi Bhendeng’s support has been key to handling all the logistics and admin side. 

Sounds like a solid crew of legends. 

I agree! (Laughs) Well, Tipi can’t make it to Japan due to a scheduling conflict between the ISA and the WSL. He’ll be in Nias running the QS1500 there.

I heard the timing of the ISA event isn’t ideal. 

Yes, but when is the ideal time? The WSL schedule is quite full all year and the ISA has said it’s mandatory that any surfer who intends to join Tokyo 2020 has to be present at the World Surfing Games in September, including those on the CT. So the surfers need to prioritize: Will that week be dedicated to their WSL World Tour aspirations or a shot at the Olympics?

Diah Rahayu. Photo: Hain
Arif Nurhidayat “Mencos”. Photo: Hain

What kind of training have you got the team doing? 

We video our surf sessions and analyze the footage together. We cover heat strategy and judging criteria. We’re doing regular group sessions at F45 Training, focusing on cardio and upper body strength. Sunset Pilates has been great for core fitness and body alignment. We get physio sessions. The team needs to follow a healthy diet. Everyone obviously surfs at a high level already, but there can be mental things like staying positive if the waves aren’t good, remaining confident if you’re behind in a heat, etc so there’s mental coaching involved too.

Sounds like a lot of work going into a few 30-minute heats. 

Imagine if you trained to be an Olympic sprinter. It’s all for 10 seconds!

What’s your goal for the Indonesian team in these next two events? 

In the ISA World Surfing Games, we want one of our surfers to be the top finishing Asian surfer to secure a spot in the 2020 Olympics. Our team goal is to improve on our 14th overall position in 2018. 

The goal for the SEA Games is to win a gold medal, which would potentially gain us increased government funding in 2020.

Im sure you guys can pull it off. Anything you wish to add? 

Please support the Indonesian surf team by following the PSOI Instagram. Thanks! 

Good luck at the events, Om. GO INDO!

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