Youtheory® is a California-based company and lifestyle brand. Their #1 selling collagen supplement is now on the rise in Japan.
This fourth issue features Youtheory ambassador Natsumi Taoka. Since turning pro in high school, she has become one of the world’s best surfers, having won three consecutive titles since the 2021 Japan Pro Surfing Tour began. Her goal is to become the first Japanese longboard world champion, and with her “hard work pays off” approach, she won’t stop until that dream comes true.
2020 was a very tough year for me since the COVID-19 pandemic prevented me from competing in heats in Japan or abroad. I didn’t know when my next match would be, so all I could do was keep training, improving my condition, and reviewing my surfing technique.
Big waves are what I do best, and I caught a huge one during the opening round of the 2021 Japan Pro Surfing Tour(JPSA). I ended up winning the tournament after placing first in every heat, from the first round to the finals. A lot of people reached out to me, and I think I was able to show that my strict training regimen yields results.
The second heat had smaller waves, which I tend to struggle with, but I was able to beat my nerves and managed to win. In the third heat, I couldn’t find my rhythm and fell behind the other surfers, but I managed to turn the tables and win to cement my third straight JPSA victory.
I was inspired by my parents to start surfing when I was in elementary school, and our family would go down to the beach every Sunday.
When I was 16, I participated in my first professional trial. Not only did I qualify but I also ended up taking first place! I couldn’t believe that an amateur like me could outperform professionals and become a champion. My Cinderella story was a lot like that of pro golfer Ryo Ishikawa, who went pro at the age of 15, and it garnered a lot of attention, which really surprised me. I went on to qualify as a professional surfer in Japan and wanted to start competing in international competitions.
There are three styles of surfing. You can surf on a shortboard, longboard, or bodyboard. I specialize in longboarding, which uses boards that are over 9 feet (about 294 cm) in length.
Shortboarding, which is set to make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is mainly about maneuvering in powerful waves, while longboarding is about cross-stepping on the board and using its buoyancy to build speed, carve, and turn as you catch waves. Simply put, shortboarding and longboarding require different techniques and ways of reading the waves.
In recent surfing competitions, scoring has started to put emphasis on expression and performance, much like figure skating. So in order to win, it’s important to find your own style of surfing and use your whole body to express the sport in a unique way.
In overseas tournaments, prize money is equal for both men and women, but in Japan, women only receive about one-third of the men’s prize. I hope that one day we’ll have gender equality in Japan, too, and that I’ll be treated as an equal among my male peers.
After graduating from high school, I wanted to focus on surfing but also wanted to study abroad, so I chose to attend the College of Arts and Sciences at J. F. Oberlin University, which has a number of study abroad programs. It allowed me to go study for six months in Australia, where I had a great time surfing while learning English.
Since graduating from college, I’ve had to juggle two careers—my job at recruiting agency Mynavi Corporation and my career as a professional surfer. I am in the office working at my desk from 9:15 am to 5:45 pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and then from Thursday to Sunday, I focus on surfing.
For the first three years, I commuted about an hour to the head office in Takebashi in downtown Tokyo from my parents’ house in Makuhari-Hongo, Chiba. But in my fourth year, I was transferred to the Chiba branch, so I was able to center my life around the beach town of Ichinomiya on the Sotobo line.
I’m a very competitive person, so I make sure that I train more than anyone else. I wake up at six every morning and have a cup of coffee and stretch before heading to the beach. And on summer days when the waves are good, I wake up at 5:30 and surf for about an hour before going into the office. Every day from Thursday to Sunday, I do three surfing sets of 2–3 hours each, depending on the condition of the waves.
I never want to miss a good wave, so I’m in the water most of the day, riding hundreds of waves, constantly thinking about how to attack the next one. Every day I surf, train, eat, and repeat. My training regime is mainly about building core strength and muscle pliability.
There has yet to be a Japanese surfer, male or female, who has become the world longboarding champion. Becoming the best in the world is a dream I hope to achieve at my next tournament, and it’s something I’ll keep chasing until it comes true.
When I was younger, I would just attack the waves with abandon, but lately, I’ve been able to use my head and surf more calmly.
The older you get and the more tournaments you compete in, the more experience you gain. Your technique improves and you get better at reading the waves. I hope to continue to compete as a professional surfer well into my thirties and forties to show the next generation that even at that age you can keep catching waves in style.
I obtained certification as a Sports Food Specialist so that I could manage my own diet and improve my performance. I’ve been studying how to optimize my nutritional balance as an athlete since I usually cook for myself when I’m competing abroad.
My diet consists mainly of vegetables, but I also make a point of getting enough protein. I don’t drink protein shakes, so I try to create a meal plan that allows me to get the nutrition I need through whole foods as much as possible.
More than anything, in managing my diet, I try not to eat anything that isn’t good for me. Instagram and other platforms are now filled with ads for all kinds of supplements that claim to help you “lose weight” and “make your skin look beautiful.” But if you actually look into many of these products, you find that they contain additives that just aren’t good for you.
That’s why I had been somewhat resistant to taking supplements in the past. But after speaking with Youtheory ambassador DK Sugiyama, he was able to answer all of my questions and addressed my concerns. That’s when he recommended that I try Youtheory collagen.
Youtheory travels the world to source the highest-quality raw materials and has thorough control over its entire manufacturing process, from farm to shelf. When I heard Daisuke explain that they are committed to best-in-class manufacturing processes that guarantee the purity, potency, and traceability in every product, I thought “Finally, a supplement that is right for me!”
I knew that collagen was supposed to be good for skin and hair, but I had never found a supplement worth trying until I discovered Youtheory collagen. After I started taking it, I immediately saw results.
My mom didn’t know I was taking it, but about a month after I started, she commented that I hadn’t had any pimples lately and that my skin looked healthier. Even my colleagues at work told me that my hair had a beautiful, lustrous sheen to it. And when I washed my face, I felt the elasticity of my skin had improved.
The world has become more and more concerned with environmental issues, but our beaches are still littered with plastic and empty cans. Whenever I get out of the water, I always pick up as much trash as I can carry in one hand and take it home with me. I can’t stand how dirty the ocean is, and it just makes me sad to see plastic bags and other garbage littered all over the beach, so I try to do whatever I can to help reduce trash in the ocean, even by just a little bit. Nothing would make me happier than seeing the oceans become cleaner.
Youtheory supports a variety of environmental beautification and volunteer activities in line with their mission of inspiring wellness. In February 2021, the company aided in a beach cleanup program that has continued for more than 20 years, organized by local surfing clubs in Kamogawa City, Chiba Prefecture.
One of the participants commented, “We hope that activities like ours will spread throughout Japan so that our children can run around the beaches barefoot without having to worry about stepping on glass or other trash.”
The best thing about surfing is that you are able to connect with nature. The ocean changes every day with the tide, the wind, and the weather. That means that there’s always something new to discover. I never get tired of it.
I keep telling myself that I haven’t peaked yet, and I want to keep challenging myself to reach even higher. That energy—the drive to never give up and to make my dreams come true—is something the ocean gives me.
And Youtheory complements this energy in the way they help keep our beaches clean and provide supplements like collagen, which helps ensure that I can keep competing as an athlete for at least another ten or twenty years.
Born in Chiba Prefecture in 1994. Taoka is a JPSA (Japan Pro Surfing Association) Certified Professional Longboarder. In 2011, she made her professional debut at the age of 16, going on to become of Japan’s top surfers as the JPSA Longboard Women Grand Champion in 2017. She was ranked No.1 two years in a row in the World Surf League (WSL) Asia region and has had three consecutive wins since the 2021 Japan Pro Surfing Tour began.
After graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences at J. F. Oberlin University, she started working as a part-time employee for Mynavi Corporation. Taoka takes on the challenge of balancing her day job and surfing career on her quest to become the world longboard champion.