Looking back to 2020. Smiling to 2021.

Riccardo Marca

Around one year ago, Riccardo Marca was planning his training year. The Italian freestyler from Rimini started off his season with a trip to Tarifa, but it did not end as planned. After an amazing sunset surf session, Riccardo ran into his teammate Maria Andres at El Palmar, the popular surf spot in Cadiz, when theyfound out about the domestic COVID lockdown that would keep them indoors for the next 60 days. Instead of decreasing his activities, he started to workout hard, and created loads of media content adapted to the context. Out of the hard times, Ricardo also saw the opportunity to start university, and now he is both training and studying! Maria caught up with Riccardo to talk about his experience of dealing with 2020, and his plans looking forward to 2021.

It was a "different" trip to Tarifa, wasn’t it?

Looking back to that moment when we first heard about the lockdown, I would have never thought that the situation was actually as bad as we realized just a couple of days later. Things changed pretty quickly and we got locked-in in the house in Spain before we could even plan our return trip back home. The pretty hard part of that period has been the crazy wind blowing outside making us dream of going out in the water to windsurf. I still want to have a positive approach in life and every situation it brings us, so the good side of it is that the first session after being locked-in felt as good as the first time windsurfing :).

Tarifa is an amazing place and it left me with a great memory. Before the lockdown, I spent a month driving around chasing the best conditions, so I got to explore around the area. It's a great location to train, windsurf, wing, surf, and kite… for every water sport you have in mind. What I particularly like about Tarifa is the variety of spots and conditions you can find around, you need to drive a little but that's not something I mind at all.


Did you have to adapt and reset your goals?

Every year before starting my winter's training I look back at what the past year has been and I set my new goals for the upcoming one. I think it's an important process to do in order to have a clear and definite goal to chase. Things change and readapting is essential. Last year, until the end, I had hopes to have a decent tour, but that didn't happen. I had to postpone my goals, but I'm still strongly motivated to compete on the freestyle tour again and give my best.

On the other hand, for a couple years now, in the back of my mind I had the idea to start studying again. Last year I felt that it was the right time to do it. After some research and brainstorming about what I wanted to study, I heard about the "Top-Athletes" program at Luiss University, a prestigious Italian university located in Rome. I got in contact with them to know about it. Everything turned out the best way I could have ever hoped for since I got into the "Top-Athletes" team with a scholarship, which allowed me to start a Dual-Career. I'm grateful for this opportunity Luiss gave me, and I'm sure that this will help me both on my personal side and on my professional side as an athlete.


Do you feel like there have been some "normal life" moments for you since the end of lockdown?

I think that things didn't return to normal yet, but it got closer to what it used to be just before last summer. It felt already amazing for me to be able to get outside for a walk. When it happened I was at home, and wind conditions didn't allow me to get back straight to the water. I didn't really do anything special, just kept doing my things. During the first couple of months, after the lockdown, I still missed the social relationships, everything felt strange and weird.

Everything kept and keeps changing in an unpredictable way. It's still hard for me now to have a clear view of what 2021 will bring. I really hope that the tour will start again and that we will be able to compete and travel. This is my hope for 2021.


How are you doing to keep training without traveling?

I'm still planning and living on a day-by-day basis at the moment. I'm from Rimini, and unfortunately wind conditions at home don't allow me to do much training on the water, and spending a winter at home would mean basically stopping windsurfing for the entire winter. This is why I decided to move to Sicily, where I have been living the last few months. It turned out to be a great location to train during the winter, we have some wind or waves every day. I'm grateful to be here with some good friends. I don't have any future plans besides that, but I think that I'll be staying here until the competition season looks a bit more clear.







What is your competition schedule?

As every year I will be competing on both the PWA World Tour and EFTP European Tour. There's nothing 100% confirmed yet but we're all hoping for the season to happen. Last year, as the year before, my goal was to enter into the top 10 of the World Tour and to reach the podium on the European Tour. I'm planning to train here in Sicily and a bit at Lake Garda as soon as the temperatures allow it until the competitions start. After that, everything will depend on the Tour. I always try to train in places close to the competitions. If it is possible, I will still be doing it this way.


Other than competition, what are your windsurfing goals and future plans?

I'm still working on the Double Air Culo, it's a pretty tough move, and on the freestyle side this is what I'm aiming for. On the wave side, I'm still dreaming of riding a wave like the one I found last year in Chia, Sardinia.  The locals said it was one of the best days of the year.

I'm looking for that moment when we will be able to travel safely and normally as before, there are a lot of places and locations I would love to travel to. The two main places I would love to go to are Chile and Hawaii, both on my bucket list for the further future. Besides those two, it's been two years since I have not traveled to South Africa. Cape Town is also a special place, I'm looking forward to going back there too.


What do you do when not studying or training?

I like to do quite a lot of things, and especially a lot of different other sports besides windsurfing, like biking, surfing, winging, etc. When I have some free time, I love to cook and find some new recipes. It's very relaxing for me. I'm also a music lover, there's a bit of music in every day of mine. I also like to watch a good movie, especially when it's cloudy and rainy outside.


How are these different times affecting your role as an athlete?

I think that some things changed. Without having a tour this year, social media became even more important than what they already were. It hasn't been easy to work on this without being able to travel and with all the restrictions, but I think that as an athlete, social media has "helped" us and the windsurfing scene to get through these moments in the best possible way.


How do you see the "new normal" affecting the windsurfing industry in the future?

Well I think that even the windsurfing industry will need to re-adapt to this new situation, with communication especially. I don’t see the product line being much affected, it might get reduced a bit, but besides that, I don’t think something else will change.

Not having a competition season didn’t only affect the riders for sure, but also the companies behind the windsurfing industry, competitions are a big part of the communication and media exposure for the brand, so for sure, finding new ways to communicate and reach the audience is essential.


What are some lessons you took from 2020?

My personal learning is that things sometimes can unexpectedly change, and even though it's hard, it's important to follow the changes and re-adapt. This year I had to shift my focus on the professional side to what was possible on social media, and on my personal side, to my studies. I have to say that everything turned out well for me, not as expected, but I tried to still get the best out of it. I don't have any regrets about 2020, I cannot regret something that does not depend on me. So even if things didn't go as planned, it's ok, I'm still happy and ready to start 2021 with a big smile.





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Riccardo Marca