Words: Nina Zietman
The identical twins from Gran Canaria have dominated women’s windsurfing for over a decade with a whopping 24 world titles between them.
At the age of 37, they are still at the very top of their game, unbeatable some might say. It seems the other girls on tour just can’t break the stronghold these two amazing Spaniards have over windsurfing.
Even though we were born on the same day at the same time from the same belly, we are not the same…
However, it’s not always been an easy ride for Daida and Iballa. Four years ago, Daida was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy.
It was an extremely difficult time for the sisters – and yet they both kept their place on top of the leader board as the best female wave windsurfers in the world.
Wave windsurfing involves competitors launching themselves off 8 to 10m high waves and pulling off difficult tricks to gain points. You can see why it’s particularly popular with spectators.
So, how do Daida and Iballa cope with the pressure to remain on top, year after year? And what is it really like to have your sister as your strongest sporting rival?
When I first met the twins at the Tenerife stop on the PWA World Tour, it was difficult to tell them apart. They both have the same sun-bleached wavy hair and scarred legs from one too many windsurfing mishaps.
They grew up in a small beach resort in Gran Canaria called Pozo Izquierdo. Windsurfing was a tourist activity back then, rather than a major sport for the area. Now there are dozens of windsurf schools scattered along the coastline and a World Cup stop held here every year.
Daida and Iballa weren’t brought up windsurfing. It was only in 1995 when a neighbour was throwing out his old windsurf board and sail that the Moreno twins chanced upon the sport for the first time. They were 17 years old. By the time they were 19, they were on the competition circuit.
Since 1997, there has barely been a year when Daida and Iballa have not dominated the two top spots on the World Tour. It’s almost as though they take turns – last year it was Iballa, but this year Daida is back in number one.
It must be seriously tough competing against your sister, year in, year out. Imagine the dinner table conversations. The rivalry must be palpable. “There is definitely rivalry between us, but it’s a really good rivalry,” says Iballa. “We are constantly learning from one another and trying to improve.”
Daida thinks it gives them an advantage over the other competitors. “We love the same sport and we push each other to do better. We’ve always watched the guys windsurfing together and wanted to try to go higher, bigger and perform more radical tricks – that’s the way we learn.”
The other competitors must get annoyed with Daida and Iballa constantly dominating the leader tables, right? “Yes, of course,” laughs Daida. “If I was on the other side, I would be really frustrated – but it would give me motivation to improve.”
I’m not the same. Obviously I’m not. Four years ago, I was much stronger and fitter, but I just wasn't ready to quit
“If you want to be on top, it’s not going to come along easily,” says Iballa. “You’ve got to work to be there. Move to a spot where you can sail everyday and give everything you can to training and being a better sailor.”
The pair spend their year travelling and windsurfing with the support of the industry’s biggest sponsors – Starboard, Severne and Maui Ultra Fins. While they might appear to lead a charmed life, four years ago Daida and Iballa’s lives were completely turned upside down.
Daida was diagnosed with cancer and spent a year undergoing chemotherapy. She still continued to win the following three World Titles, but admits that even today she is not entirely back to her former self.
“I’m not the same. Obviously I’m not. Four years ago, I was much stronger and fitter. After you go through chemotherapy, everything changes in your body.
“However, mentally I am really strong. Studying at university helped me think differently. If you’re only thinking about training and competing all the time, you put your body under so much stress.”
Did Daida always know that she wanted to continue on the World Tour? “Yeah, I wasn’t ready to just quit. I knew it was only a certain amount of time before I would recover – I needed to take [the cancer] out of my body and clean it – and I’m still here. I’m happy that I can now continue to lead my normal life.”
From beating cancer to pioneering female windsurfing, there’s no doubt the Moreno twins have inspired a whole generation of girls to take up windsurfing.
The sisters spent many years running training camps for women who wanted to windsurf professionally. Now these women are competing on the PWA World Tour.
However, it’s not easy to become a professional windsurfer – particularly as a woman. Every girl I’ve spoken to on tour relies entirely on sponsorship, but this is hard to come by. Some have part-time jobs or help from their families, but every year it’s a constant struggle.
“If a girl wants to live off windsurfing only, like the boys do, they have to leave everything behind – their studies, their jobs, their family – everything, so they can commit 100 per cent into windsurfing,” says Daida.
“Eventually, women get to a certain age and they are tired of this kind of gypsy lifestyle. The top guys, however, can live easily from windsurfing. Easily.”
While home is the Canary Islands, the girls spend most of the year travelling to different countries on the PWA World Tour. It’s a life that’s constantly on the road – and they do say it’s hard to keep a steady routine.
“We’re actually really lucky we’re from the Canary Islands and two of the stops are home. Germany is hard because it’s really cold and can be rainy,” says Iballa.
I often say that windsurfing has been the university of my life
While the pair come as a package – they have the same branded Moreno twins tour vans, t-shirts, even the same sponsors – they insist that they are distinctly separate individuals.
“We are two different people,” says Daida. “Even though we were born on the same day at the same time from the same belly, we are not the same.”
The twins have recently decided to take different paths. Daida has just qualified as a physiotherapist, while Iballa has been taking part on the Stand Up Paddle World Tour as well. But windsurfing will always be their main focus.
“It is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle,” says Daida. “I often say that windsurfing has been the university of my life. I’ve learnt so much from it – about different cultures around the world, how to be a better person and a better athlete. We’re always searching for wind and waves. It’s pure adventure.”
Monarch operates scheduled flights to Tenerife from Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £39.99 one way. www.monarch.co.uk