Rio Waida: Top facts about the rising Indonesian surfer

Bali’s pocket rocket Olympic surfer Rio Waida is the complete package and here's why!

By Ash Tulloch
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Rio Waida has been in the form of his life of late.

The Indonesian surfer has won back-to-back World Surf League (WSL) Challenger series (CS) competitions, the circuit below the elite Championship Tour (CT).

And he does not look to be slowing down.

Speaking after his win in South Africa, at the Ballito Pro on 10 July, he said, "I came here to win, and this is just the beginning. I am sure I’m gonna have more win and losses in the future.

"I still have 5 more events in challenger series, and once again the jobs not done”

The Tokyo 2020 Olympian has been gaining attention in the surfing world over recent years thanks to his powerful and fast style.

In 2021 Ross Williams who is a former pro surfer, commentator and coach of two-time world champion John John Florence, said that Waida is 'the best surfer not on the (championship) tour.'

Williams also said, "If he gets on tour, he is just going to demolish guys."

So what is the fuss all about. Read on to learn more about the Indonesian surfer who's impressing many and defeating the world's best.

Small but mighty: Rio Waida

Rio Waida started surfing at five years old when his parents moved from Japan where he was born, to Indonesia.

An medical condition stunted his development as a child and he was treated with growth hormones. Once a teenager, Waida had proven himself in the water and become one of Indonesia's rising stars. This is no small feat considering Indonesia is an iconic surf destination with a thriving surf scene. In fact it's considered one of the most wave-rich countries in the world. This is sure to have contributed to his experience and confidence in the water.

At 1.70m tall, the 22-year-old surfer is not overwhelmed by his opposition. In May of 2022 he was given a wildcard for the Quiksilver Pro G-Land on his home turf in Indonesia, and knocked out number one ranked surfer, Filipe Toledo.

Just days before beating the Brazilian, Waida won the Sydney Surf Pro, his maiden CS win and the biggest victory of any Indonesian surfer.

Impact of Olympic experience and Village life: Rio Waida

Waida was one of 40 surfers at Tokyo 2020 who made history, as the first athletes to ever surf at the Olympics.

The event had a profound impact on the Japanese-Indonesian who finished ninth equal. It may surprise you what he enjoyed most.

"The Olympics was a crazy one, it was a really good experience, so unique. The actual competition was kind of normal, you see all the pro surfers, that’s normal, but then at the Athlete’s Village that was my favourite part," he told Stab Magazine

"You get out from your room and see all the athletes, big guys and small guys, and to think that you were surrounded by all the best athletes in the world at one time was crazy for me."

He also discovered new-found fame after the Games. Speaking to Magic Seaweed, Waida expressed his passion for being a role model for youth in his country.

"The Olympics earned me a lot of new fans in Indonesia, and gave me a great platform to show the kids here what is possible. I hope that the kids here will work hard and pursue this dream of surfing in the Olympics too." - Rio Waida

Quest for Qualifying for the WSL CT: Rio Waida

Despite performing well on Challenger Series (CS) and the Qualifying Series (QS), Waida's goal is to make it to the elite surfing tour where the best of the best compete all year.

The Championship Tour (CT) is where the best surfers compete year-round and at the end of each season, a world champion is crowned. That is what he has his sights on.

Speaking to Stab Magazine in November 2021 he said, "This year I had a lot of friends qualify so I’m more hungry, I don’t want to loose, I don’t want to stay on the QS all the time, I’m getting a bit over it. I want to be on the CT surfing good waves and surfing with the best guys."

His performances in 2022 so far have earned him over 20,000 qualifying points, which means he should be a shoe in for making the 2023 CT, and make his dream a reality .

Kelly Slater Idol: Rio Waida

Over the years Waida has rubbed shoulders with the best of the best in the water, but one man stands out.

11-time surfing world champion Kelly Slater is a hero to many, including Waida.

The American won the Pipe Masters in Hawaii in February 2022, just days before turning 50. The Indonesian was quick to share his congratulations and adoration for his idol.

Posting on Instagram, Waida said, "What you did today was amazing. I did cry watching you screaming, and got carry up the beach.

"You always my favourite surfer since first time I saw you on 2008 in Padang2 ct event. Because I was growing up watching you, I had a dream to become a professional surfer and dream to have sponsor by Quiksilver.

"I always remember every little moment I had with you. Thank you for everything Kelly. You push me more. And I know you gonna do it more. So much respect."


Free live sport events. Unlimited access to series. Unrivalled Olympic news & highlights.