Rio Waida might be a name you don't want to draw in your heat in Mexico. Fresh off competing at the Tokyo Olympics, the 21-year-old Indonesian has secured a Wildcard into the next event on the CT, the Corona Open Mexico presented by Quiksilver.
Waida was born in Japan and raised in Bali to parents from Japan and Java. Honing his incredible natural talent with relentless dedication, he would surf waves all over Bali from sunup to sundown with supreme focus, and has grown into one of the most technical above the lip surfers coming through the ranks. And, he's no slouch in the tube, either.
His dream has always been to qualify for the CT. For the past four years, he has spent a chunk of his time chasing QS points, traveling to Australia, Japan, The Philippines, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and Morocco leaving the enchanted, neoprene-free land of perfect barrels to schlep halfway across the world.
His most recent big break representing Indonesia in Tokyo in surfing's Olympic debut had been a long time in the making -- and yet another milestone in his career.
"When I started doing the QS my dream was to just qualify for the CT and then probably 2018 I recognised that surfing was going to be in the Olympics so my main goal was to qualify to the team -- that's always my dream and the second was to the Olympics," said Waida in a recent interview.
In 2018, Waida finished third behind American Eithan Osborne and Brazil's Mateus Herdy in the WSL World Junior Championships. His opportunity to compete in the upcoming Mexico event won't be his first CT rodeo either.
He was granted a Wildcard spot into the 2019 Corona Bali Protected at Keramas on Bali's east coast. The then 19-year-old immediately proved why he is considered Indonesia's next big hope, defeating 2X World Champ Gabriel Medina and Deivid Silva to advance through the draw.
"I'm very happy I won in the first round, especially because I was competing against Gabby Medina, the world champion," said Waida after his post-heat interview of the feat.
While Waida's qualification bid was put on hold due to COVID, early in the season he was sitting at 27th after securing a 3rd at the Corona Open China. He decided to use the past 18 months filling up hard drives with footage of him surfing his favourite breaks in Bali.
And the decision has quietly been paying off. He was invited on the Stab High boat trip and proved he could fly with the world's best launching an outrageous straight air and has continued to drop clips that have got the attention of industry heavyweights.
In an episode of the Getting Heated with Mick Fanning earlier this year former CT surfer and current coach to 2X World Champion John John Florence didn't hold back when asked who he thought was the best surfer in the world -- currently not on the CT.
"Definitely my favourite surfer, not on Tour right now…currently, lives in Bali. His name is Rio Waida. This kid is unbelievable…. He surfs better than half the guys on tour right now in my opinion. If he gets on Tour he is just going to demolish guys."
He might already be the first Indonesian surfer to compete at the Olympics but give it time and there's every possibility he will make history again as the first surfer from his country to make the jump onto the CT.