Friday, 26 December 2008

Surfing Japan

During my travels I have tried to identify different cultures and the aspects that set them apart. My current trip is no different but this time the onus is on surfing.
Now not every country I plan to visit is surf mad. This has proved to be the most interesting part.
My last article saw me trapsing through central Japan after waves that I had only heard about. With little media coverage, especially in the Uk, I was simply going on local knowledge.
A 12 hour train journey from the city of Kyoto took me to a part of Japan where westerners are watched with the least amount of discretion. As my girlfriend and I walk from the small train station on one of the last seaside towns/fishing village in mainland Japan we may as well be from out of space.
Kaifu in the Shikoku prefecture is renowned for its quality surf. Despite its nationwide fame, Japanese locals still hug the coast of Tokyo (Chiba) due to its convenience and close proximity.
Told my many locals that "not many westerners make it here" I feel a little more adventourous for my exploration.
Kaifu turned out to be one of the highlights of Japan for me. With some of the warmest water I have ever surfed in and a good 3-4ft barrelling wave, I wasnt suprised to find the locals as heavy as they were. Before you catch anywaves in this part of Japan you are subjected to some verbal bashing - obviously in Japanese not to offend the victim. I just smiled and in my terrible Japanese asked them if they were having a good day?
To my suprise around the 12.00pm mark people left the surf and headed back to the beach. I surf was getting better and I made the most of the empty waves.
Towards the end of my time in Japan we visited the coast of Chiba for one night and stayed with Eugene Teal, Japans premier longboarder. To prove how small the world of surfing is, he asked me if the knew the likes of Sam Bleakley and Ben Skinner. Very strange.
Here I managed to get a clearer understanding of Japanese surf culture.
I have never seen such organised surfers. With surfboard stands behind their "surf vans", portable showers connected to their cigarette lighters and fresh water to clean their boards and leash when they finish their surf Japanese van life makes me feel as if we are behind the times!
Brand new four hundred pound wetsuits are all the rage for surfers from Tokyo and surftechs line the waters edge.
The cultural difference is more apparent when at 12.00pm a horn sounds followed by gentle "plinky plonky" music informing the entire town that it's time for lunch. As if by magic, the waters empty and I am left sitting alone with 1-2tf perfection.
Eugene informs me that all towns have their own theme tune and the next towns is reminisant of John Denvers "Take me home Country roads".
With Hong Kong my next stop I was eager to see the waves of Big Wave Bay. Very small when I arrived I could see the potential with youngsters lining the beach in a far more Western scene. I would urge surfers to stop by and check out the surf during your next stop over.
Having spent a week in China, where surfing doesnt exist in the Chinese Language I am assured that further south youngsters are taking to it like duck to water. Soon we will be competing with them on an International scale.

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