An Amazon on the waves and adversity | Sports

Garazi Sánchez has very rarely been afraid on a surfboard. One of them was in Australia, when a zodiac pulled him out of the water while a shark was roaming the area. The other was in July 2018, on the French beach of Hossegor: a wave slammed the young woman’s body against the shore with all its ferocity. “Suddenly, I felt a pain in my back. I almost fainted. I lay down as best I could, and when the keels hit the sand, I tried to stand up, I couldn’t walk and I collapsed,” Garazi recalls. After consulting with several specialists, he entered the operating room to undergo a delicate spine operation. “I had the feeling that it couldn’t be happening to me. He told me: ‘this is a joke.’

The recovery lasted ten months, a time full of uncertainties and fears. A year later, Garazi was back on a surfboard and today dreams of participating in the next Olympic Games in Paris 2024. This story of personal improvement demonstrates the character and strength of the Basque athlete, an example on and off the circuit not only for his merits on the table. Also for her commitment to the environment and the oceans. But let’s not anticipate events.

Getxo, 1999. Garazi Sánchez is seven years old. She is used to enjoying outdoor sports, in contact with nature. Her parents, lovers of climbing and kayak surfing, spend many hours with her children near the sea. There, the family is happy. And the little girl starts surfing. What at first is a simple game soon becomes something more. “She was a special girl. Many times they confused her with a child,” says her first coach, Gorka Yarritu. On Sopelana beach, Yarritu launched the first surf school in Bizkaia in 1998, where Garazi took his first steps. “For those students it was the beginning of her surfing, and for me it was the beginning of what has been the project of my life for so many years,” says this instructor, an absolute reference in this sport.

Garazi has fun like never before and starts competing. “The water is one of the few places where I disconnect so naturally,” admits the double Spanish surfing champion in 2017 and 2018. She immediately stands out from her rivals, with her natural talent and effort as hallmarks. . Her perseverance seems limitless and the waves of the Cantabrian Sea are too small for her. At only 13 years old, she presents a project to go live and train in Australia, one of the world’s surfing meccas. No sooner said than done. She attends high school remotely, her life happens between competitions, trips to paradisiacal destinations (Mexico, Indonesia, Maldives, California, Haiti…) and many hours of training.

an irrational fear

But in 2010, something inside makes him stop dead. She is 18 years old and, without warning, doubts and fears paralyze his meteoric career. “I lost all the sponsors, I stopped surfing and never looked back. I didn’t care. The world scared me, it’s incredible,” he says in this new installment of the series. Better connected.

It is an irrational fear, an anxiety so enormous that it prevents you from leading a normal life. Panic to enter a restaurant, to go out on the street, to interact with others. In the midst of this vital crisis, Garazi is aware that she cannot face the situation alone. She knows that she must ask for help and turn to someone to guide her to reconnect with her life and regain balance with her circle of friends, with her family and, above all, with herself. That’s when Gorka Alegría, her coach, her friend, appears. coachpsychologist, coach… “One day I came to the school where I work, and I met a very young girl, overweight for an athlete and emotionally very affected,” Alegría recalls.

Regardless of the championships you win, success is having this personal, internal empowerment to fulfill a dream

Gorka Alegría, coach of Garazi Sánchez

The technician sets a first objective: to use the tool of sport to recover the person behind the surfer. Hours and hours of therapy and work that are beginning to bear fruit. In Portugal, the first victory in the Qualifying Series arrives, a turning point in Garazi’s career. A before and after, because the surfer shows that she has overcome the hump and that she is willing to do anything. As a result of that victory, more podiums and medals came, until Hossegor’s fateful wave almost left him forever confined to a wheelchair. At the height of her professional and personal peak, she has to start again.

A movie recovery

The day after the accident, the young woman already speaks with her coach with her mind set on recovering. Gorka Alegría knows it won’t be easy. With the athlete bedridden and after undergoing surgery, the technician fears that the work done in recent years will come undone. On this path of personal improvement, the support of her colleague Andy Criere, a professional surfer, has also been decisive.

Meanwhile, with the help of his friend Juan Labad, Garazi decides to record this entire process in a documentary to get ahead and overcome adversity as soon as possible. “I do it because I think that, if one day I am cured and can recover my professional career, I would like to have recorded what I have been through and remember it when I win, lose or complain that there is bad wind,” he explains. And again, as in 2010, the athlete overcomes the difficulties and recovers in less than a year.

Their resilience is admirable. She trains like never before (an average of five hours a day) and her hunger to compete is infinite thanks to her willpower, discipline, and self-confidence. Between waves, Garazi dedicates his time to another of his passions: audiovisual production. She is the author of two documentaries, Shame (2020) y removing the shame (2022), with which he wants to raise awareness about the conservation of seas and oceans, and warn of the effects of climate change on the planet.

Today, the Basque surfer is a fixture on the Spanish team, she remains among the best in the Spanish and European championships, and hopes to qualify for the imminent Olympic event in Paris. “Regardless of the championships she wins, success is that she has this personal, internal empowerment to fulfill a dream,” her coach insists. The necessary ingredients to be happy.

Friends beyond surfing

Garazi’s magnetism transcends the waves of the sea. The sport has also helped him make friends outside the world surfing circuit. One of them is the skater Danny León, the best Spanish specialist in this discipline, who aspires to qualify for the Paris Olympics. The Madrid athlete – a surfer with wheels – met her 14 years ago and they have shared many events since then.

“The first impression is that she is a very serious girl, not very accessible, but that is not at all the case. Garazi is charming, super close, with a great background. It makes you want to support her and help her in everything you can,” says León, who shares with her her love for the entire culture that surrounds any board sport. “He skate and surfing are quite united, because they are part of a lifestyle. Beyond the competitions, the little world that forms around our sports, the people you meet, how we treat each other is incredible. “We are a big family,” he points out.

The first impression is that she is a very serious girl, not very accessible. But Garazi is charming, super close, with a great background. You want to support her and help her in any way you can. It’s incredible that little world that forms around our sports, the people you meet, how we treat each other. We are a great family

Danny León, professional skater for the Red Bull team

Like the Basque surfer, the skater of the Red Bull team (he coincided with Garazi in Dockers actions linked to the sport) has also overcome a serious injury that kept him in dry dock for a few months. “Preparing mentally is essential. If you get into a loop where all you do is complain, you won’t improve. You have to be aware of what there is, pay attention to each step you have to take, go little by little with patience, without running, because there are injuries that have certain times and you have to respect them,” he says. In addition to competing in Paris, Danny León hopes to fulfill another dream: one day surfing with Garazi. “I haven’t had that luck yet, hopefully soon!”

Inspiring stories to learn from in life

Through the #MejorConectados platform, Telefónica brings together big names in Spanish society such as Rafa Nadal, Ferran Adrià, Teresa Perales, Chema Martínez or Javier Gómez Noya, among others. All of them explain their own lives of personal improvement, very inspiring stories that value the power of human connections. In this space, stories are also told as different and gratifying as those of the footballer Keita Baldé, very involved in improving the employment situation of day laborers during the pandemic. Or that of Discamino, an association to help people with disabilities achieve their dream of walking the Camino de Santiago. Because when we connect, we are capable of making unsurpassable achievements.

“We want to make our world more human by connecting people’s lives,” says the president of Telefónica, José María Álvarez-Pallete. The company’s Global Marketing Director, Rafael Fernández de Alarcón, agrees with this idea, defining Mejor Conectados as “the place to be inspired, meet, connect and achieve incredible things.”

The platform has several motivating sections such as Learn and Get Inspired, in which figures such as Perico Delgado, Iñaki Gabilondo, Toñejo Rodríguez, Toni Nadal, María Zabala or Amaya Valdemoro offer, in first person, advice and reflections that can serve as inspiration, improvement and learning.

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