G+J Q&A w/ Kanoa Igarashi: Coming of Age

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Kanoa Igarashi has dreamed of winning a professional contest since he was five years old, and he's finally done it! He won the ASP 1-star Shoe City Pro in Huntington Beach in early October, taking out former Shoe City Pro champ Chris Waring in a heated man-on-man final in epic surf on the southside. Kanoa pocketed $6,000 and for a kid Kanoa's age, that's a lot of cash!

G+J Editor Skip Snead caught up with Kanoa after the event and here's what he had to say …

Ghetto Juice: Congrats on your first WQS win! I know you had a third in Portugal, a second at the Belmar Pro and now this! You've finally cracked the code!
Kanoa Igarashi: Yeah you could say I've been kind of consistent but there's nothing like getting a win. I've been runner-up so many times, and I haven't had a win in a while (in Pro Juniors); this is my first 'QS win and it means so much to me.

G+J: And it happened at your home break, too!
K+I: That means a million times more to me to take it out just down the road from my house. I've been surfing a lot and working hard, and I feel like it's finally paying off for me. It feels really good.

G+J: You've been working toward this your whole life. Let's go back 10 years. You've been surfing here your whole life. Do you remember what it was like being a grom and the dreams you had back then?
K+I: The earliest I can remember is wanting to do exactly what I'm doing now. To be winning contests and being on the podium and holding up that first-place check. That's what I've always dreamed of since as far back as I can remember. I'm just so stoked to be doing what I'm doing. I feel like I've been training all my life for this. You know, I want to be a world champ one day so this is just a building block.

G+J: You belong here doing this …
K+I: Yeah, for a while, I've been doing WQS's and I wouldn't get the results I wanted, and I'd keep telling myself, "I don't belong here, I don't belong on the WQS," and getting smoked by all these guys trying to put the food on the table, like super-hungry Brazilians and stuff. I felt like I was just "there" and that I didn't belong there, but now that I've won an event I feel like I belong here and I belong in the Top 80 and I'm so stoked.

G+J: You're going to have to charge Pipe and Teahupo'o one day on the world tour. How do you feel in bigger surf?
K+I: For sure, I've been going to Hawaii since I was about six years old, and I've been going every year and I never miss a year. It's one of my favorite places to go and it's really sick to be over there at the end of every year and to be in the couple primes that are held there. Those will be my first events in Hawaii this year, and it's going to be a really good experience for me to surf those waves with not too many people out. I'm really excited for the back end of the year.

G+J: You're so tuned into contest surfing, but you also take some great freesurf trips as well. How do you differentiate the two?
K+I: Yeah, you've got to be able to switch it on and off, whether you're a freesurfer or a competitor, you've got to be able to free surf when you're freesurfing, and be a competitor when you're competing because you can't be a freesurfer in heats, and you can't be a contest surfer in your freesurfs. I've been trying to find that balance and have done a pretty good job of turning it on when I have a heat, and turning it off when I'm just having fun with my friends, and getting clips when I don't have a jersey on.

G+J: You see guys like Fanning, Taj, Parko and Slater who have all nearly been on tour for what feels like the better part of 20 years … are you prepared to be on tour the next 20 years?
K+I: For sure. I get so fired up surfing heats, and I have a million times more fun surfing heats than I do freesurfing, and I don't think that's something everyone's born with. I'm just so blessed to have that competitive fire in me, and it's something I've had my entire life and something I don't think I'll ever get over. As long as I'm having fun and not looking at it like a job I think I'll be able to do this a very long time.

G+J: You've been with Quiksilver since your super grommet years. Have they been treating you well? Talk about that relationship.
K+I: They're amazing, and they're my family. I've been with them since I was 12, so about five years, and those guys over there, Chad (Wells), Belli, Jake Paterson, they take care of me so much. We're one big family and I feel like I have a support group everywhere I go. It's the best.

G+J: Right now there are several Brazilians on the ASP World Tour, and next year there could be twice as many. What are you having to do to stay in the mix so the Brazzo's don't completely dominate the future of surfing? You're having to step it up, yeah?
K+I: Yeah, I mean, they inspire me. The Brazilians inspire a lot of people actually with the hunger, the determination and their passion, so I try to put that into my surfing as well. It's weird … there wasn't that many Brazilians on tour before, but there are guys like Adriano who put a standard on all the Brazilians. He's a top 5 surfer and they all look up to him, and I think that's why there's so many now. As for American surfers on tour, guys like Kelly, and Kolohe especially, are inspiring a lot of us, 'cause he's a local surfer and a lot of surfers my age grew up surfing against him and he's setting the standard. He went from losing a bunch last year to being a Top 10 surfer, that's crazy.

G+J: How crazy is it that you might be surfing with the guys you looked up to all your life as a grom?
K+I: Yeah, well this year's been huge for me. At the US Open this year I beat a few 'CT surfers, like Jadson Andre and Travis Logie and Julian, and I've really felt like winning a contest. I've been trying to carry a lot of momentum this year and I think this is where I need to be.

G+J: You've been doing a bunch of the WQS events this year. Where are you in the rankings?
K+I: I'm in the 70s I think, so I'm already in the Primes and I'm so stoked. That was a goal of mine at the start of the year, to be in the mid-year re-seed, and I'm here now and kind of doing good in the events, so it's all coming together.

G+J: Do you have a goal of when you'd like to qualify for the big tour? Are you rushing it or do you feel you're a little ahead of the curve at 17?
K+I: I feel like if I'm ready to qualify, I'm going to qualify. I feel like when my surfing's there I'll get the results in the Primes and I'll qualify from there. I'm not telling myself I need to qualify before a certain age. I don't care if I qualify for another couple years, because if you qualify, you deserve to be there. If you're putting your life and soul into each prime event when you're so young, you can get on tour and just get smoked. So I'm just going to surf how I always surf in the Primes, and not over-do it, but have fun doing it, traveling with my friends. When I qualify I know I'll be ready. I'm in no rush but I'd love to qualify in the next few years.

G+J: Slater's been on the world tour since before you were born. Wouldn't it be cool if he stuck around on tour a few more years so you'd have a chance to surf against him?
K+I: I'm not sure if he'll be there or what Kelly's doing, but I'd love to surf against him in a heat. He's so gnarly and he's been around for so long, for so many generations. It would be crazy to compete against him for sure.

G+J: What's the best advice a pro surfer has ever given you?
K+I: You know, all the guys on the WCT, Travis, Freddy P, Artiz … I've surfed with them a bunch and they just give me small pointers. I remember last year in France, Travis Logie told me something that really stuck with me. He told me to commit more on my backhand turns. That it will throw more spray and give you more speed than doing a half turn. Just small things like that. Nothing too deep. I don't need a coach. I just have good people supporting me. These guys give me small pointers and I just take it all in because they are the best surfers in the world.

G+J: How in tune are you with your equipment? Do you know what you like in boards or do you just ride whatever they give you?
K+I: Last year I was really … well, I left it up to them. They're really onto it. They've seen my surfing and know how much foam I need, and what kind of board suits my surfing and all that, so for a while I'd just give them the dimensions I'd think would go good for me, but this year, I've been really in tune, and trying to dial it in. A 16th in a board can make a lot of difference. A centimeter in fin placement can make such a big difference, so I think it's really important now to know what you're riding and feel confident riding. If you're leaving it up to other people, that can be good, but you want to be sure with yourself that you're riding the best equipment you can be riding, and I think I am right now.

G+J: What advice do you have for super groms these days?
K+I: I think the number one thing is to have fun. Because if you're not having fun you're not going to have a long career. You can't be forcing yourself to surf. You can't be forcing yourself to train. You can't be forcing yourself to go down to contests. That's not something I ever forced myself to do. I grew up always wanting to surf. I'd want to surf all the time. I always wanted to go to the contests. I always want to travel. And if you don't want to, then you shouldn't be doing it. Just have fun and work hard at it, but make sure that you want to work hard and you want to train and commit yourself every day. It's a commitment and it should be (done) out of pure fun.


Posted by: Ghetto JuiceGhetto Juice at: 06 Nov 2014 22:27




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Kanoa Igarashi has dreamed of winning a professional contest since he was five years old, and he's finally done it! He won the ASP 1-star Shoe City Pro in Huntington Beach in early October, taking out former Shoe City Pro champ Chris Waring in a heated man-on-man final in epic surf on the southside. Kanoa pocketed $6,000 and for a kid Kanoa's age, that's a lot of cash!

G+J Editor Skip Snead caught up with Kanoa after the event and here's what he had to say …

Ghetto Juice: Congrats on your first WQS win! I know you had a third in Portugal, a second at the Belmar Pro and now this! You've finally cracked the code!
Kanoa Igarashi: Yeah you could say I've been kind of consistent but there's nothing like getting a win. I've been runner-up so many times, and I haven't had a win in a while (in Pro Juniors); this is my first 'QS win and it means so much to me.

G+J: And it happened at your home break, too!
K+I: That means a million times more to me to take it out just down the road from my house. I've been surfing a lot and working hard, and I feel like it's finally paying off for me. It feels really good.

G+J: You've been working toward this your whole life. Let's go back 10 years. You've been surfing here your whole life. Do you remember what it was like being a grom and the dreams you had back then?
K+I: The earliest I can remember is wanting to do exactly what I'm doing now. To be winning contests and being on the podium and holding up that first-place check. That's what I've always dreamed of since as far back as I can remember. I'm just so stoked to be doing what I'm doing. I feel like I've been training all my life for this. You know, I want to be a world champ one day so this is just a building block.

G+J: You belong here doing this …
K+I: Yeah, for a while, I've been doing WQS's and I wouldn't get the results I wanted, and I'd keep telling myself, "I don't belong here, I don't belong on the WQS," and getting smoked by all these guys trying to put the food on the table, like super-hungry Brazilians and stuff. I felt like I was just "there" and that I didn't belong there, but now that I've won an event I feel like I belong here and I belong in the Top 80 and I'm so stoked.

G+J: You're going to have to charge Pipe and Teahupo'o one day on the world tour. How do you feel in bigger surf?
K+I: For sure, I've been going to Hawaii since I was about six years old, and I've been going every year and I never miss a year. It's one of my favorite places to go and it's really sick to be over there at the end of every year and to be in the couple primes that are held there. Those will be my first events in Hawaii this year, and it's going to be a really good experience for me to surf those waves with not too many people out. I'm really excited for the back end of the year.

G+J: You're so tuned into contest surfing, but you also take some great freesurf trips as well. How do you differentiate the two?
K+I: Yeah, you've got to be able to switch it on and off, whether you're a freesurfer or a competitor, you've got to be able to free surf when you're freesurfing, and be a competitor when you're competing because you can't be a freesurfer in heats, and you can't be a contest surfer in your freesurfs. I've been trying to find that balance and have done a pretty good job of turning it on when I have a heat, and turning it off when I'm just having fun with my friends, and getting clips when I don't have a jersey on.

G+J: You see guys like Fanning, Taj, Parko and Slater who have all nearly been on tour for what feels like the better part of 20 years … are you prepared to be on tour the next 20 years?
K+I: For sure. I get so fired up surfing heats, and I have a million times more fun surfing heats than I do freesurfing, and I don't think that's something everyone's born with. I'm just so blessed to have that competitive fire in me, and it's something I've had my entire life and something I don't think I'll ever get over. As long as I'm having fun and not looking at it like a job I think I'll be able to do this a very long time.

G+J: You've been with Quiksilver since your super grommet years. Have they been treating you well? Talk about that relationship.
K+I: They're amazing, and they're my family. I've been with them since I was 12, so about five years, and those guys over there, Chad (Wells), Belli, Jake Paterson, they take care of me so much. We're one big family and I feel like I have a support group everywhere I go. It's the best.

G+J: Right now there are several Brazilians on the ASP World Tour, and next year there could be twice as many. What are you having to do to stay in the mix so the Brazzo's don't completely dominate the future of surfing? You're having to step it up, yeah?
K+I: Yeah, I mean, they inspire me. The Brazilians inspire a lot of people actually with the hunger, the determination and their passion, so I try to put that into my surfing as well. It's weird … there wasn't that many Brazilians on tour before, but there are guys like Adriano who put a standard on all the Brazilians. He's a top 5 surfer and they all look up to him, and I think that's why there's so many now. As for American surfers on tour, guys like Kelly, and Kolohe especially, are inspiring a lot of us, 'cause he's a local surfer and a lot of surfers my age grew up surfing against him and he's setting the standard. He went from losing a bunch last year to being a Top 10 surfer, that's crazy.

G+J: How crazy is it that you might be surfing with the guys you looked up to all your life as a grom?
K+I: Yeah, well this year's been huge for me. At the US Open this year I beat a few 'CT surfers, like Jadson Andre and Travis Logie and Julian, and I've really felt like winning a contest. I've been trying to carry a lot of momentum this year and I think this is where I need to be.

G+J: You've been doing a bunch of the WQS events this year. Where are you in the rankings?
K+I: I'm in the 70s I think, so I'm already in the Primes and I'm so stoked. That was a goal of mine at the start of the year, to be in the mid-year re-seed, and I'm here now and kind of doing good in the events, so it's all coming together.

G+J: Do you have a goal of when you'd like to qualify for the big tour? Are you rushing it or do you feel you're a little ahead of the curve at 17?
K+I: I feel like if I'm ready to qualify, I'm going to qualify. I feel like when my surfing's there I'll get the results in the Primes and I'll qualify from there. I'm not telling myself I need to qualify before a certain age. I don't care if I qualify for another couple years, because if you qualify, you deserve to be there. If you're putting your life and soul into each prime event when you're so young, you can get on tour and just get smoked. So I'm just going to surf how I always surf in the Primes, and not over-do it, but have fun doing it, traveling with my friends. When I qualify I know I'll be ready. I'm in no rush but I'd love to qualify in the next few years.

G+J: Slater's been on the world tour since before you were born. Wouldn't it be cool if he stuck around on tour a few more years so you'd have a chance to surf against him?
K+I: I'm not sure if he'll be there or what Kelly's doing, but I'd love to surf against him in a heat. He's so gnarly and he's been around for so long, for so many generations. It would be crazy to compete against him for sure.

G+J: What's the best advice a pro surfer has ever given you?
K+I: You know, all the guys on the WCT, Travis, Freddy P, Artiz … I've surfed with them a bunch and they just give me small pointers. I remember last year in France, Travis Logie told me something that really stuck with me. He told me to commit more on my backhand turns. That it will throw more spray and give you more speed than doing a half turn. Just small things like that. Nothing too deep. I don't need a coach. I just have good people supporting me. These guys give me small pointers and I just take it all in because they are the best surfers in the world.

G+J: How in tune are you with your equipment? Do you know what you like in boards or do you just ride whatever they give you?
K+I: Last year I was really … well, I left it up to them. They're really onto it. They've seen my surfing and know how much foam I need, and what kind of board suits my surfing and all that, so for a while I'd just give them the dimensions I'd think would go good for me, but this year, I've been really in tune, and trying to dial it in. A 16th in a board can make a lot of difference. A centimeter in fin placement can make such a big difference, so I think it's really important now to know what you're riding and feel confident riding. If you're leaving it up to other people, that can be good, but you want to be sure with yourself that you're riding the best equipment you can be riding, and I think I am right now.

G+J: What advice do you have for super groms these days?
K+I: I think the number one thing is to have fun. Because if you're not having fun you're not going to have a long career. You can't be forcing yourself to surf. You can't be forcing yourself to train. You can't be forcing yourself to go down to contests. That's not something I ever forced myself to do. I grew up always wanting to surf. I'd want to surf all the time. I always wanted to go to the contests. I always want to travel. And if you don't want to, then you shouldn't be doing it. Just have fun and work hard at it, but make sure that you want to work hard and you want to train and commit yourself every day. It's a commitment and it should be (done) out of pure fun.

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