On November 9th, 2018, after an intense day of action in Praia do Norte, during the Nazaré Grand Slam, Ayaka Suzuki made history by becoming the first Japanese bodyboarder to win the world championship in the sport of bodyboarding. After a long journey of eight years competing at the highest level, Suzuki struggled to internalize the feat and recalled the first steps on the bodyboard taken 14 years earlier. Then it all made sense.
Since then, the 3x Pipe Champion moved to Hawaii, became engaged and married Mack Crilley, a Hawaiian bodyboarder who also happens to compete on the world tour. At 25, two years after reaching the world title, Ayaka Suzuki Crilley gives us the lowdown and guarantees that, no matter what, continues to “living the dream”.
Due to the pandemic, 2020 has been a crazy year for everybody. How’s things in Hawaii and what have you been up to?
It has been a crazy year for sure. Things that we usually have changed a lot. But I decided after the last APB tour event (in Frontón) to not compete this year so It was a great time for me. After I decided to not compete in the 2020 season, I got engaged and married Mack Crilley and moved to Hawaii.
Hawaii has been pretty chill about all these crazy things, we still could surf and have a basic life. But one thing that really frustrated us was the fact Maui – where we live – has NO WAVES since last Winter! So we could surf but we couldn’t surf at all during last summer. And also I got an injury on my lower back in June and since then I’ve been not bodyboarding too much and been working on the recovery part so I can start to boogie again.
That’s why It has been a pretty frustrating year, but I’m very happy that I can live on this beautiful island with my husband! Since we both have not competed or traveled this year, we have been working on creating our social media contents and trying our best to entertain our boogie fans! We’ve created Wonder Boogie Instagram and YouTube channel to show our boogie life and show some real Hawaii bodyboarding sense. I’ve also created a new sunscreen brand called DA MASK to protect the bodyboarders and surfers skin and It has been great, We’ve learned a lot of new things and we realize how beautiful this life is. How beautiful this mama nature is. Just little things we’ve seen and feel everyday are such a beautiful gift for us. So It was definitely a very tough year but actually it was a great year to learn and grow up. Although we are very excited for next year for sure!
“[due to an injury] I’ve been not bodyboarding too much and been working on the recovery part so I can start to boogie again
Tell us more about your social media and fans…
Well, I have a lot of male followers on my Instagram, but on YouTube or other media I have more female fans. It depends of the content and the social media I decide to post. On Instagram, I show bodyboarding video content and some lifestyle things. On Youtube, I show my lifestyle Vlog or talk and teach about bodyboard.
Are the Hawaiian Islands the best place in the World for bodyboarders?
I would say each island has the best boogie wave in the world. But those are not consistent to break! Especially in the Summertime, sometimes we have no waves at all. And when the Winter comes, a ton of surfers from all around the world come here to surf so it is always very crowded and very hard to catch waves. So yeah, definitely we have the best bodyboarders and some of the best beautiful waves in the world right here, but I don’t know if I can say this is the best place for bodyboarders from all points of view. Definitely not for the competitors who want to surf consistent, but for free bodyboarders YES!
“The world is a real crazy place right now. We never know what’s going to happen in the very next minute. But, I mean, I do hope they will be able to run the entire tour.
What is the current bodyboarding scene in Hawaii? Which island has more bodyboarding presence?
Kauai, Oahu and Maui have a lot of bodyboarders and also young generations! I do think this crazy thing happening now in the world brings more kids to the ocean and got them into bodyboard. I heard bodyboards are selling really well at the Hawaiian stores since the pandemic started!
Which spots do you surf normally at home?
Paia bay, Honolulu bay, I surf everywhere in Maui if there’s waves.
You’re the first Japanese bodyboarder to win a world title. What does that mean to you? Do you ever feel that was an extra weight over your shoulders?
Winning the world title was one of my goals in my bodyboarding career and I’m very happy about it. But honestly I never felt too much weight over my shoulders. Maybe Because I did it for myself, for my family, for my fans and for whoever supported me and trusted me since when I was young. Actually I feel like less weight now than before!
“I left Japan in 2016 to make my dream come true. I spend the next years traveling all around the world to chase my dreams. Finally I made my dream come true, I became the first ever Japanese world champion bodyboarder
Japan has been dominating the female tour the last couple years. Do you think that’s trendy to stay?
I don’t know. I’m out of the competition scene at the moment. I just hope more next generations show up to the tour and compete! But whenever I come back to the tour, I’ll grab the world title for sure. Ahahaha!
A funny fact is you never won the Sintra Pro event, one of the oldest comps in the tour and the one that has been going on for more years continuously. Winning that event is something you want to achieve in the future?
Yes, that’s right! I don’t usually focus or set a goal on which contest I like to win or something, but I would love to have a good win at the Sintra Pro in the future. Maybe when I come back to the tour!
Regarding 2021, do you think we will have the conditions to see the world tour running?
Hey, I don’t really know. The world is a real crazy place right now. We never know what’s going to happen in the very next minute. But, I mean, I do hope they will be able to run the entire tour. If they can’t make it happen, I think they should do a creative event online for all, boogie fans and for bodyboarders all around the world! Photo contest, movie contest, air contest, YouTube contents event… a lot of ideas that are able to entertain the bodyboarders and fans! One thing is certain: we do need something FUN! We need something to show the world how fun bodyboarding is!
“I’m out of the competition scene at the moment. I just hope more next generations show up to the tour and compete!
What are your plans for 2021?
I’ll keep focusing on making fun boogie media contents on my Instagram and YouTube channel! I’m planning to go on a few surf trips to film. I want this sport to get more popular in the near future, I want to show to the world how fun bodyboarding is! I think I’ve done what I could’ve done in the competition part. So now it’s time to connect even more to the world and people and try to show our amazing sport through the social media network!
Thank you so much for this interview Vert Magazine and all European boogie lovers! Hope you guys are having a great holiday boogie time, and see you guys in my SNS! Enjoy boogie! We do boogie for FUN, right? Cheee! ALOHA! xxx
All photos Ayaka’s personal files.