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Kanoa Igarashi

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Kanoa Igarashi is huge in Japan. Although he was born in Santa Monica, California on October 1, 1997, Igarashi spends time in Japan where he is a celebrity of sorts. With local news coverage and autograph seekers, he gets the full star treatment when visiting family and trying to grab a few hours for surf sessions. Although Japan would love to claim this so-called surfing “prodigy,” Igarashi looks to be leading America’s next generation of surfing world title contenders.

Kanoa Igarashi started surfing at three years old when his dad gave him a few shoves into waves on Huntington Pier’s North Side (a decade and countless surf trips later, he calls the pier’s South Side his favorite wave). He got his first board the same year: a Town and Country “longboard” (or what seemed a longboard to a three year old). Igarashi got his first sponsor when was seven. He was stoked to be part of the Huntington Surf and Sport team. Within a few scant years, Igarashi was winning national events, breaking records, and galvanizing American surf jounos to coin him the next “Slater.” However, no matter how meteoric his climb to local, national, and soon global recognition appeared, the pint sized regular footer kept his focus like a laser by staying obsessed with the sport and art of surfing like only a super stoked pre-teen can.

By the time he was 11, the 6th grader was pulling in great grades in Dwyer Middle’s most advanced classes and taking sponsored surf trips all the while dominating his local amateur contest circuit. While most kids were lying on the couch all day texting and murdering digital zombies, Igarashi was putting in double sessions, once before school and then straight out in the water after class until dark. That year, he made history by beating Cory Arrambide’s record of 21 NSSA regular season victories (a record formally held by Tommy Curren) before finishing the season with 30 wins.

In 2012, he won the Rip Curl Grom Search held at Lowers Trestles. But it wasn’t his win that was so striking but rather how a marked increase in both strength and board control have combined to make his prodigious talent explode. With a keen eye on fellow Quiksilver talents like Kelly Slater and Dane Reynolds, Igarashi’s surfing has begun to get that explosive carving aesthetic that keeps a judge’s attention but with a full flurry of aerial maneuvers on display that looks to make him a top contender heading into the next level of the sport and the next stage of his career.

He secured his first professional win at the DNA Energy Pro and a victory at the US Open of Surfing both in 2012. Igarashi is quickly following the likes of fellow American surf star Kolohe Andino. With a stated desire to become the world champion and heaps of media claims as heavy as “the Kelly Slater,” Kanoa Igarashi is somehow keeping it all together. In fact, he’s not just dealing with the pressure, he’s harnessing it.

Read my interview with Kanoa.

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