Straight From The Pros: Natxo Gonzalez Conquers the Punta Galea Challenge !


CAPBRETON, France (Thursday, February 21, 2013) - At only seventeen years old, Natxo Gonzalez (EUK) hasn't had his big break yet on the ASP Europe Junior Tour, but the young Basque has seriously started to make a name for himself in the bigger surf ! On January 29, Gonzalez won the Punta Galea Challenge, first European stop on the Big Wave World Tour. We've just talked to Natxo about his latest experience and competition in general.

ASP Europe: Hey Natxo, start by introducing yourself..
Natxo Gonzalez: My name is Natxo Gonzalez, I live in Plentzia, a little town of the Cantabrian coast in Bizkaia. I'm seventeen, and I like sports in general, and especially competitive surfing. Open personality, I like everything about nature and enjoy with my friends who are great fans of what I do. So I try to keep up to date all the information about my work as a surfer on social media (web, blog, facebook, instagram ...) so that my followers are aware of my news surfing.

ASPE: Where and when did you start surfing ?
NG: When I was six, I used to go to the beach in Plentzia with my parents and a bodyboard. I was hooked instantly and somehow I got able to stand up on the bodyboard. So with my savings I bought a proper board because my parents were afraid that buying me a surfboard would make me a failure..

Plentzia is not really consistent in summer, so I started going to Sopelana, where the waves are constant and more powerful. When I was nine, I started surfing in winter and I met my first "coach" in the team Aketza, Cabobillano Sanchez. I joined the group along with some of the best juniors in the area.

The next year, I started competing in local competitions with Alex Gironi and Ander Mendiguren. They taught me everything about competition cause they had more experience than me. Since then I haven't stopped competing.

ASPE: You're starting to collect good results on the Junior Tour, how is that going ?
NG: You know that this is not by chance. This is the work of many years. I started surfing with my father and sister, plus we recorded videos of the sessions. No one really knew the techniques, but we compared the maneuvers with other surfers and corrected what was wrong.

Luck is also important in surfing, being in the moment and the right place is not just a matter of strategy. Also another important factor that influences my results is the mental part, I must have a clear head and balanced mind to work and this is the how I feel right now..

ASPE: Just a few weeks ago you won your first major competition, tell us a little bit about this event ?
NG: On the cliffs of La Galea we met with the organisers and fellow early risers to check the brutal swell caused by the mini-cyclone Jelle. The waves were not clean, the face of the waves were bad, no consistency in the sets, no lines of swell, waves breaking from each direction. With these types of conditions anyone could be caught inside and have a bad experience even the most experienced.

Later that morning the wind dropped, the sun came out and warmed the place and the sea cleaned up well, you could see clear swell lines on the horizon of El Abra..

At about 1:30pm the organization gave the go-ahead to the first semifinal with Asier Legarreta, Jon Garai, Xabi Gerrero, Andrew Cotton, Ander Mendiguren, Adur Letamendia, Pilou Ducalme and myself. Conditions were complicated and it was a super hard heat. All those riders have so much experience and most are locals so they know La Galea very well.

After a slow start to the final, it started pumping and never stopped until the end of the competition.I got lucky and caught two big waves. On the last wave of the heat I was late but I had to turn around and that was it, I paddled, caught the rail and dropped to the bottom, that wave gave me the win.

ASPE: The waves looked gigantic, and you had some serious competition, how does it feel to win this one ?
NG: It's amazing and I want to thank the organizers. I've been involved with them since I was fourteen. I've learned a lot from Indar and Adur, I've also been catching waves at this spot with other surfers like David Bustamante, Asier Etxebarria and Jaime Fernandez. They taught me to position myself and escape some of the waves.

I was prepared, but as I said earlier I was lucky to be on the point and take the last wave of the day, the winning wave.

ASPE: It's surprising to see a young surfer like you tackle enormous waves, have you been riding them for long ?
NG: Well, as I said before, I started to surf this wave with my coach when I was fourteen years old, he taught us how to work this wave out. Before that we had already surfed Meñaka, which is another good point that reaches four meters and when it's good it gets hard because the wave is hollower. I've also trained in Mundaka since I was twelve, it's a very strong wave, hard and very hollow.

ASPE: What sort of special training do you do for this kind of event ?
NG: It's mostly surfing, all this helps me be in good physical condition, and when it's flat I try to work on apnea at the pool or work out at the gym. So I feel I am ready to start doing more of this..

There's also a part of training that's just being out there in the water, to see the dimension of the wave, try not to get nervous and feel the force of all that water.

ASPE: You've won a Wildcard into the next Big Wave World Tour event, are you at all scared of where it will be ?
NG: Yes well, at first I thought it was too early to enter this world of big waves, I'll have time to do it later, I'm also more focused on the European junior circuit. But if the schedule works out why not go to Chile? These events have a great security team and they're not as risky as it seems. So I will be attentive to the call.

ASPE: The Junior season is about to start again in a few months, what are your goals this year ?
NG: I've trained a lot and I feel really fit. This year I have set a goal of reaching the top four in the European ranking and get the spot for the World Juniors. I think I'm in shape and every day I am improving my surfing, tubes both frontside and backside, aerials and verticality. The world junior tour is very important, it's where you get noticed !

ASPE: Thank's a lot for your time, and we wish you the best of luck for the future ! Anything else ?
NG: Thank you for giving me this opportunity, for recognizing my work and I also want to thank my sponsors, Quiksilver, Pukas, DC, who are helping me a lot in getting my project and all my followers on social networks that give me courage day to day.

Thank's very much !"