All eyes are back on Fiji – Pic: Thea McDonald-Lee

We caught up with three-times World Junior Champion Mahina Maeda, who has just been revealed as the wildcard surfer in the upcoming women’s world tour event, the Fiji Women’s Pro.

What were you doing when you found out you’d been selected as the WSL wildcard for the upcoming event in Fiji?

I was actually told about it a couple of months ago, I think before the event at Margarets started. I was just doing my usual routine, which is check the mail and do schoolwork. I got an email from Jessie Miley Dyer (Deputy Commissioner of the WSL) telling me I had secured the place, and I was astonished!

Last year you won a place in the Swatch event at Trestles so this is your second CT event. You’re already 3x World Junior Champion, but what does it mean for you to be chosen to surf in a CT event?

For both the Trestles and the Fiji event I was not given the wildcard. It’s more like I earned it. For the Trestles event I had to surf in the Swatch event in France and finish as the top competitor who’s isn’t already on the championship tour. In the end it came down to me, Tati (Tatiana Weston-Webb), and Holly (Holly-Sue Coffey). For Fiji I earned this seed by winning the World Juniors back in October in Portugal. I’m glad I was chosen this way instead of being picked for a different reason because it shows that I worked hard to gain a spot in the contest.

Have you surfed at Cloudbreak before, either for an event or freesurf? How are you feeling about the event?

I have never surfed Cloudbreak, but I’m looking forward to practicing out there before the contests starts. I’m obviously feeling nervous, I’m competing against the top 17 women and my first heat is with the Jeep rankings leader, Carissa Moore. I am feeling some confidence though. I was born and raised on Sunset beach, on the North Shore of Oahu. It’s always big there and you have to be ready to charge. I grew up surfing big waves in Hawaii and last year I towed in at Nazarè in Portugal, so I’m no stranger to big waves and I’m ready to do my best out there.

Mahina charging Hawai’i. Pic: Nick H/NRH Photos

Last year was essentially the first year the current women’s tour has had an event at Cloudbreak. The conditions were somewhat difficult and there was mixed reports about the women’s performance. Negative opinions seemed to come from people who watched the event via webcast, while reports from Fiji were really positive, the locals agreeing the women were charging. How important do you think it is for the women to do well at an event like Cloudbreak?

I think it was wrong for those people to say negative things. I also got negative comments about my wave in Nazaré. Some people told me because I went straight it’s not a complete ride, and other negative comments. It takes a lot of guts to get out there and charge and I think actions speak louder than words.

Today was my first time surfing Cloudbreak and it was pretty scary. There were a couple of clean up sets and you really feel that you’re surfing in open waters. There’s a huge difference between watching it online and actually being out there. In all honesty the women charged at Cloudbreak and I give all respect to them because it’s tough out there.

Last year your good friend Tatiana Weston-Webb was the only chick to bag the prize money in the GoPro Challenge after she filmed her barrel during the expression session of the Fiji Pro. Do you think you’re going to have an advantage surfing on your forehand and what can we expect from you out there?

I think I’m better with my backhand! But I think Cloudbreak on my forehand will be a whole new story. There’s not many events on tour where the goofy footers can showcase their fronthand so I’m going to challenge myself out there and hope to find some of those bombs that Tatiana found last year.

Goodluck Mahina and all the rest of the women! The event window starts May 31st. You can watch the action unfold live at World Surf League.