Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Picking Up Surfing... In Japan?

I was born and raised in Northern California. However, even though it's home to some of the best waves in the world, such as the infamous Mavericks, I never really picked it up. For me, surfing has always been just a summer hobby, having to borrow gear from friends who were "real" surfers.

Going to university in Los Angeles, it was even worse. Despite the beautiful weather and amazing beaches, I never surfed a day during my 4 years living in LA. It's not that I didn't want to... I just didn't have access to equipment or ways to get it to the beach (imagine trying to take a surfboard on a public bus in LA).

Now I live in Japan, a country not known for its surfing, and whose breaks are limited at best.

Surf Trip for Golden Week 2011, Aoshima, Miyazaki

No matter. It's about time I pick it up.

I've already got my board as an early birthday present to myself (not pictured) from a local Japanese shaper--a 5'10'' Retro Fish with a quad fin setup. The idea behind such a small board is that it's easy to transport, but more importantly, it catches smaller waves like a long board. 

Despite being the size of California, with even more coast as an island, the waves in Japan are nowhere near close. So having a board that can catch smaller waves is a necessity--the consistently best surf on Kyushu Island, Miyazaki (pictured above and third), is not really feasible for me as a day trip. Still, in my city of Kitakyushu, there's Wakamatsu Ward about 30 minutes away. There, surfers frequent a few beaches to try and catch... well, anything. 

A typical flat day at Iwaya Beach, Wakamatsu Ward, Kitakyushu City

I've already gone out on my board a few times at Iwaya Beach which has been fun, even with uncooperative waves. And in my short time of surfing in Japan, I've already made a few observations. I've found that while locals still have that stereotypical, laid back attitude, unlike in California, it seems less about impressing people and more about doing your own thing. The result is a surf culture that feels much more accessible as a beginner.

I won't lie-- it took us all afternoon to get this picture. (Aoshima, Miyazaki)

So who cares if the waves aren't that good? It's already. It's more about getting out on the water and enjoying yourself. Besides, from what I hear, typhoon season is coming. So while Iwaya in Kitakyushu hasn't given me much these past few weekends, it's safe to say that it's only going to pick up from here.


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