BREAKING WAVES – World-champion jet ski racer Aero Aswar chats with DAMAN about getting his world title, his passion for the sport and what’s in the cards for the future
When you’re working for a fashion magazine, it always comes as a delightful surprise when the person you’re interviewing turns out to know a thing or two about fashion. Aero Aswar arrived on set for his photo shoot wearing an Audemars Piguet watch and Off-White X Nike white sneakers. Before the cameras started rolling he chatted playfully that his interest in fashion really grew during his teenage years, and how he always opted for Brioni for his suits. Now, while his approach to fashion and style has become more subtle, it’s clear that it still means a great deal to him. He also talked fondly of his favorite brand Balmain, and his extensive watch collection, including the aforementioned AP piece.
But, of course, Aswar is known first and foremost as a prominent jet ski racer. A world champion jet ski racer, to be exact. He gained the title of world champion back in 2014, which he dubbed his best and most memorable year. Not only was he crowned pro Runabout World champion, that year also saw him win a gold medal for the Endurance Open number during the 4th Asian Beach Games in Phuket, Thailand. topping it all off, he was only 19 at the time and he achieved all of those incredible feats while nursing an injury.
“That was actually my best and hardest year,” Aswar reflects. By hardest, he was referring to his torn ACL, LCL and meniscus—three very common knee injuries for jet ski racers. “I couldn’t walk for a week,” Aswar went on, “but then I had to continue racing for the second round. I already won the first round with the torn ACL and then I got third place in the second. So, that whole year, I managed to get two national titles with the torn ACL.”
Injuries are not unusual in Aswar’s field. “It happens all the time,” he says with an eerie casualness. “Racing-wise, it’s a risk. I’ve broken three of my ribs, all my fingers were broken, i tore my ACL, meniscus, LCL, MCL and my ankles too.”
He never let all this affect his performance, though. And the proof lies in his records, as Aswar continued to reap many more titles in jet ski racing after 2014. This includes World Ranked #1 Rider at the P1 AquaX in 2016 and runner up at the 2017 International Jet Sports Boating Association (IJSBA) World Finals, where his brother, Aqsa Aswar, who is also a jet ski racer, won third place. Then, earlier this year, in May, he scored a back-to-back win at the pro Watercross’ Pro Stock in Panama City Beach and Pensacola Beach, while his brother won second place. And the list goes on and on like a never-ending grocery list.
On a more technical note, Aswar specializes in three specific types of racing: Close Course, Circuit and Endurance. Additionally, his biggest strength is racing on rough water, as this is how he trained since he was a kid. At the time, his father, Saiful Sutan Aswar, who is the chairman of Indonesia Jetsport Boating Association (IJBA), played a huge role in developing young Aswar’s interest for jet ski racing. “Ever since I was basically a newborn, like two months old, I started going to the ocean. And then eventually jet ski started to play a big role in my life,” he contemplates, before adding that seeing his dad playing jet ski and watching his friends race in Thailand and Malaysia eventually emboldened him pursue the sport professionally.
Aswar also revealed that he was never good in teamwork, claiming that if he weren’t in jet ski right now, he would probably be in either motocross or car racing. “Anything racing,” he later added. “I don’t know why, but I’m not good with teamwork. It has to be on my own. Because in racing, I’m racing on my own terms. So, I can’t rely on other people like in soccer where you have to pass the ball.” Fast forward a couple of years and you have an established jet ski racer who is doing about 12-14 races each year, excluding invitations from other countries, which he said could bring the number up to 18.
“It’s really demanding, crazy and insane.” Aswar says of his time commitment to jet ski racing. But one thing’s for sure, he doesn’t mind the load. When asked what he finds hardest about his chosen field, he replied: “it’s pretty hard to answer that one because [jet ski racing] is a passion. So, I like the difficulties that come with how I train.”
Looking to the upcoming Asian Games— which, by the way, will be the first time that jet ski racing is officially included—Aswar is optimistic, and is “very sure” to win. But the races he’ll face there will be different from his usual fare as it will be on home ground. “It’s the pressure of your peers and your country, you know,” he replies when asked on what he thinks will be the biggest challenge for him in the 2018 Asian Games. “I mean, it’s my home town; you can’t back off from anything.”
Meanwhile, on a grander scale, Aswar says that his goal is to win another World Champion. “My goal is to have 10 World Champion titles,” he exclaims. He also expressed interest in trying his hand at freestyle racing. “Freestyle is when you get to do back flips and barrel rolls. I like watching people do that and I tried it a couple times but maybe it’s not for me,” he says before adding: “though, I’m willing to learn.” And he’s certainly one to try his best. After all, he has the phrase “Nil Satis Nisi Optimum” inked on his arm. it means “Nothing but the best is good enough.”
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