Meet Shino Matsuda: Japan’s Olympic hope in Women’s Surfing

August 21st, 2020

At just 5 feet 2 inches tall (1.57m), Shino Matsuda’s small stature and sweet smile are deceiving. Hidden in that compact frame is an elite, up-and-coming surfer who has her sights set on the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Once you see Shino surf, any preconceived notions about her power on a surfboard get thrown out the window. She can be seen on the beaches of Japan – and all around the world — crushing waves and controlling her surfboard with style, precision and power.

It’s this skill on a surfboard that has booked the 18-year-old’s ticket to Tokyo 2020.

Shino went head to head with the world’s best National Surfing Teams at the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan and more than held her own. She finished in 15th place, and as the highest ranking surfer from Asia, was awarded a continental qualification slot for Tokyo 2020.

The slot is provisional, not confirmed until the 2021 World Surfing Games take place, but Shino’s chances of retaining that qualification slot are looking mighty good a year out from the Games.

With two Japanese men, Kanoa Igarashi and Shun Murakami, already (provisionally) filling out the men’s quota for the host nation, Shino is currently Japan’s lone shot for a podium finish in Surfing on the women’s side.

So, a year out from the Games, the ISA caught up with the woman who is currently carrying the torch for women’s surfing in Japan.

Get to know Shino Matsuda, Japan’s future Olympic surfer.

Shino lets the spray fly during a heat at the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games. Photo: ISA / Sean Evans

ISA: You’ve qualified for Tokyo 2020. At what point did you realize that you had a real chance to surf in the Olympics?

After the heat [at the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games]. I won the Asian Continental Slot and team members and staff came to let me know and congratulate me.

I knew beforehand that I would go to the Olympics if I won that heat, but I was so focused to win the heat itself that it was not really in my head until people came and told me.

ISA: Take us back to that moment. What emotions were you feeling?

It was my goal to be qualified for the Olympics, so I felt relief.

But even after qualifying qualified, I was not able to stand on the podium and receive a medal [at the World Surfing Games].

I was not satisfied, and I will use that to drive myself to achieve a higher position next year.

Can’t hide a smile after a huge heat win. Photo: ISA / Sean Evans

ISA: How well do you know the wave at Tsurigasaki? Do you feel you will have an advantage competing in your home country?

I go to Tsurigasaki often for training.

It is definitely easier for me to compete there than somewhere I’ve never surfed. I love it there as Tsurigasaki has consistent waves, and although the size could be small, the wave quality is usually good.

ISA: How have you been maintaining and improving your surfing during the pandemic without surf contests?

I’ve been focusing on physical mental training.

There were periods that I couldn’t surf, but I focused on what I was able do at that moment, and not to be negative about the situation.

Shino putting her stylish surfing on display.

ISA: How did you get into surfing? What about surfing is special to you?

I joined a surfing school at my local beach when I was six years old and I loved it. That was the start.

For me, surfing is a sport where you face Mother Nature and a sport that you can keep challenging yourself. I think that’s very special.

ISA: What is your favorite wave to surf in the world? In Japan?

My favorite wave in the world is Uluwatu. In Japan, I love the typhoon waves in my local area, Shonan, and Miyazaki.

Shino prepares for a heat, accompanied by teammate Kanoa Igarashi. Photo: ISA / Sean Evans

ISA: How has the inclusion of the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 affected the sport as a whole in Japan?

With the inclusion, I see Japanese media getting more interested in Surfing. That made many more people understand the sport and support the surfers, which is wonderful.

ISA: What are your future goals – both personal and professional?

I would like to surf in the Olympics and succeed. I would also like to get into CT and win a title.

As I am encouraged and inspired by athletes, I would like to be such a person who also inspires.

ISA: How would you describe yourself?

I think I have a mind of my own.

ISA: Anything that you would like to add?

I am working hard towards my dream and I truly thank ISA for their support!

With this chance, I would like to show people how wonderful surfing is.

One of Shino’s lethal backhand carves

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