Surfing. ”I always believed I was going to be world champion,” says Francisca Veselko

Surfing. ”I always believed I was going to be world champion,” says Francisca Veselko
Surfing. ”I always believed I was going to be world champion,” says Francisca Veselko

He was born in California, in the United States, but has Portuguese nationality and, at 20 years old, is already a reference in national surfing. The fact that her parents surfed and participated in competitions sparked young Kika’s interest in surfing. Her mother, Filipa Leandro, won stages on the national circuit, and her father, Joe Veselko, was a North American international. In fact, we are talking about a family of surfers, as the two brothers also converted to wave sports. «I grew up on the beach, watching my parents surf», she began by saying with a slight smile, letting out what was in her soul: «I fell in love with the sea since I was very little. I always liked playing in water». The fact that I live in Carcavelos and can explore some of the best beaches in Portugal also helped.

At the age of three he was on a board for the first time, but the adventure didn’t go well. «It was a joke between friends… they pushed me, the board flipped over and I was underwater, completely scared. At the time, I didn’t want anything to do with surfing anymore,” she recalled. Despite the scare, the little animal stayed. «After a while I felt the urge to try it and, since then, I haven’t stopped». He started surfing on weekends when he was seven, and at 8 he went to a surf school, where he met Joaquim Chaves. We can say they had a good school, as they were both national champions.

At the age of 9 he participated in a competition for the first time and from then on he didn’t stop. «I’m 20 years old and I’m still competing, it’s what I enjoy doing most», she said with natural satisfaction. Even before making the leap to seniors, she was Under-18 champion.

Women’s surfing has gained more and more international recognition, with talented athletes who have left their mark on the waves they go through. This evolution is something that Francisca Veselko likes. «When I started there weren’t many women in the water and the competitions had few surfers. Nowadays there are a lot of girls and the level is good”, acknowledged Francisca, who said with conviction: «Women’s surfing has evolved a lot in Portugal. We have good surfers and the new generation has a great attitude and a lot of quality».

World champion at 19 years old

Francisca Veselko remains in the history of national surfing for her unprecedented achievement of the junior world title in 2023, in Solana Beach, California (USA). The Portuguese surfer received a wildcard from the World Surf League (WSL), eliminated the great references in women’s surfing and concluded the race brilliantly with a 0.13 point advantage. After a close battle with American Sawyer Lindblad, she caught the perfect wave at the end of the heat and turned the score in her favor. «I was naturally very happy to represent our country in the best way possible. It was an event with the 24 best junior surfers in the world and it wasn’t easy to win”, she made a point of highlighting. It’s worth watching the wave that gave him the world title on YouTube.

Before the decisive heat he said he was sure he would win, now he told us why. «Several signs appeared throughout the event. In the first heats [bateria de competição] I had some luck, I caught the best waves when I had priority. Furthermore, the sea had big waves, just like I like. In that place there was a wheel with rings and bracelets, I said I was going to spin it to win a ring and I won. The next day the same thing happened. My coach, Rodrigo Sousa, was also feeling that things were going well and my family was very confident», he recalled.

It was an unforgettable year for Francisca Veselko, as after the world title, followed the second absolute national title. Winning the world title was an unprecedented feat in women’s surfing in Portugal, but it did not have the impact that the athlete expected in terms of support. «It was very good for my career, it gave me more confidence, but in terms of new sponsorships it could have been better», she said resignedly.

Each surfer naturally has their own style on the board. The two-time national champion has no doubts in stating that her style is «more power surfing», and explained: «they are stronger maneuvers». With the international experience already accumulated, she said that the way surfing has also changed in recent years. «Surfing has grown a lot in aerial maneuvers, these maneuvers already existed a few years ago, but now they are more spectacular. Then, we have wave pools that create a swell that is always the same and allows you to work on new maneuvers. We try, we make mistakes, we analyze and try again until we perfect the technique», explained the surfer from Carcavelos. In addition to the Junior World Cup, she participated in the WSL Challenge Series and it was on some of the most famous waves in the world that she showed her talent.

Among the elite

This year he received a wildcard to participate, for the first time, in the Championship Tour event, which took place this March, in Peniche. She was the second Portuguese surfer to compete among the best in the world. Surfing alongside some of the best surfers in the world at Supertubos beach, in Peniche, was a dream come true. «It’s the best there is, and that’s where I want to get to. The Championship Tour is at a high level, this season has been an incredible show and that inspired me to get into the supertubes, which have been fantastic. Before I knew I was going to participate in the CT race, I was already preparing for the tubes, it’s something that’s missing in my surfing”, he said, recognizing that “the tubes and aerial maneuvers are points where I have to improve” .

Despite having prepared for the Portuguese race on the world circuit, Francisca Veselko was eliminated in the repechage round. «I knew there were no easy heats and that a lot of consistency was needed. It was a great challenge and an excellent opportunity to understand what it is like to be among the elite in world surfing. Without a doubt I was a little frustrated, I had more to give, I wanted to give more of myself, unfortunately I didn’t really meet the conditions, but now I have to work harder, because this is where I want to be”, she confessed.

After this experience, Kika Veselko is already thinking about the future: being among the elite on the Championship Tour. «It’s been my dream since I was 9 years old. Each person chooses what they want to do in life, I chose surfing. I believe I will make it. I won’t rest until I reach the world circuit,” she said with conviction.

To reach the top you need a lot of determination, work and confidence, and you don’t lack that. «That’s what I strive for every day, even in bad conditions, sometimes I don’t feel like going to sea, but I have to go. The opportunity I had to participate in a CT race is the result of the work I have been doing and I have to maintain that focus». In addition to improving the technical aspect, he also does physical training and works with a sports psychologist. Francisca recognizes the importance of taking surfing seriously. «I train four hours a day and on the weekends I free surf. It’s by spending many hours in the water that you can evolve to try to be better every day».

He has worked with Rodrigo Sousa for several years and the role of the coach in surfing is very important in several aspects, as he explained: «He helps me make decisions. All training sessions are filmed, then we see these images and he corrects the technical part; This is how I understand what I need to improve. Before a heat, if I’m in doubt about which board to use, he advises me and gives me the confidence I need to do a good race».

Like any surfer, Kika has an ideal spot. «I would like to surf in Mentawai, an island in Indonesia. It has unbelievable waves that make it possible to do great maneuvers and tubes, it is a very complete destination, plus the water is warm».

Before we finished the conversation, he made a point of highlighting that the best part of surfing is “being a challenge”. «We play with mother nature and always under very different conditions, perhaps that’s why we never get tired of this sport. Every day is an unknown. The sea is also very relaxing, that’s where I can release my emotions», he guaranteed. «Surfing early in the morning, with the full moon, or watching the sunset in the water are incredible moments», concluded the young surfer.

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Surfing believed world champion Francisca Veselko



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