Starboard is excited to announce the signing of superstar SUP racer Rai Taguchi from Japan. We also welcome 2 new up-and-coming talents – Thomas Nilsen from Norway and Fernando Perez from Spain, while we look forward to seeing Israeli powerhouse Liran Machlev riding with Starboard for another season.
Japan // Age 19
Meet Rai Taguchi, the exciting new force that has exploded onto the SUP tour in spectacular fashion. The 19 year old professional SUP racer grew up on in the beautiful sea of Okinawa Island in Japan, a prime location for developing his waterman skills. He has been immersed within the ocean since he was just 4 years old, enjoying all the water activities the islands waters has to offer him such as snorkeling, spearfishing, swimming and surfing. Currently, Rai is expanding his sporting activities as freediving fisherman. When he’s not training or competing, he is also working hard to train Japanese Junior SUP athletes.
Rai has been a fan of SUP racing ever since he won his first kids’ race when he was 12 years old and before long, winning the ICF SUP World U18 Championship at the age of 16. His belief is “never give up no matter what”. Living by this motto has pushed Rai to achieve top results in various international competitions.
Rai has not only shown stellar pedigree in SUP racing but recently has also been attracting the attention of Japan’s top SUP surfing riders.
“Starboard is the largest company in the industry. They are not only developing the fastest boards, but also continuing to be environmentally friendly. I am attracted to their corporate philosophy. And I am proud to be part of the Dream Team. I’m looking forward to racing on Starboard, which is always on the podium!”
Whats big for 2023?
“The 2023 season is looking really fantastic and glad we will now be able to travel the world without restrictions. I’m spending a lot of time on the water this year with special focus in become World Champion. And I want to compete with various athletes in many countries. I am confident that the 2023 season will my best season yet.”
Norway // Age 20
Thomas has grown up near the ocean mostly in Southern California but also in Norway where he now lives. In southern California, he was active in water sports at a young age including outrigger canoeing, sailing, junior lifeguarding, surfing, and SUP. In Norway, he was sailing in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. Currently, Thomas trains as much as he can balancing studies and SUP.
It was at Mike Eisert’s The Paddle Academy, where Thomas was introduced to SUP racing at the age of 12 and where he developed his skills and love of racing. Thomas paddled with some of the best junior SUP paddlers in the World, and the southern California weather allowed racing all year round. Since returning to Norway, after many years of living in SoCal, Thomas has been getting used to paddling in Viking conditions.
“I have been paddling a Starboard All Star since it was recommended to me by Coach Mike at age 14 of The Paddle Academy. I have tried other boards over the years, but could never change because Starboard makes the fastest boards. When you have the best equipment, it is hard to change brands.”
What’s big for 2023?
“In 2023, I am planning to race more locally in Scandinavia and hopefully help establish a Norwegian Open race in my hometown in Norway. I also want to start a local SUP club and introduce kids to SUP racing. Sports are very popular in Norway, but SUP racing is not really known here yet. I want to make it known.”
Since Norway does not have a Norwegian Championship, Thomas took a ferry to Sweden to “win” the Swedish Championship races held there in the summer. In the European Championships, Thomas advanced to the A final in the Technical and placed top 10 in the downwind distance.
Spain // Age 21
Fernando Perez is a 21 years old athlete, 3 x Spanish SUP race Champion, he has lived all his life near the beach at southern Spain doing variety of water sports. He has been dedicated to sports and healthy lifestyle, that’s why at the moment he’s finishing his degree in health and sports science . Fernando is very competitive, he has always been trying to push the limits and while still having fun.
Fernando’s father was a water sports lover, so he was fortunate of having the opportunity to follow his father steps and took surfing as a first choice when he was 7 years old, but at 15 years old finally he found paddle racing, since then, he has been fully focus on racing and developing his skills to the best level.
I consider Starboard to be the top brand of this sport with technology and design so I’d be amazed to race with the best materials and be partner of the best riders in the word
What’s big for 2023?
In this 2023 I would like to do a big achievement in the ISA Worlds and also in the big events taking place here in Europe, notably The EuroTour and APP, but for sure I want to keep on travelling and enjoying this sport in other locations outside of Europe.
Liran was born and raised in Israel, by the Mediterranean sea. He started his way in water sports in the age of 10 from windsurfing. His father brought him to the first lesson, and since that moment he cannot live without salty water. During his windsurfing career Liran joined many competitions, as a result he ended up the European Champion twice and also twice he took 3rd place in World Championships.
Liran always had a passion to waves, and it brought him to Hawaii in 2012, where he tried SUP for the first time, and where for the first time he took part in SUP competition (IMUA Paddleboard Maui Race) and got the 3rd place. After that he moved on with SUP surfing, practicing every day in his home country, and in the of 25 he opened his own SUP & SURF school in Herzliya, Israel, where besides the other instructors he is still giving lessons and sharing his experience with his students from 7 to 65 years old.
Liran went back to competitions in 2019, when he has taken part in the range of Eurotour events and has finished 10th in World SUP Festival Costa Blance in Spain, 6th in Corfu Emerald Cup in Greece, 3rd in Eurotour SUP Race in Eilat in Israel, 1st in Tianfu Greenway SUP Open in China, with the 14th place in overall Eurotour 2019 Rankings. He has finished the competition season 2019 with 9th place in long distance race at ICF SUP World Championship.
Currently, Liran is focused on the coming competitions of 2023 and targets being in the top 5 athletes list this year. Besides everyday training, his true passion is his SUP & SURF club, which is growing and developing every year with his care and management.