This year, Kanoa Igarashi rose from the ranks of a Pro Junior perennial favorite to a potential WCT qualifier. At press time, the 18-year-old from Huntington Beach is currently sitting in seventh place and could very well be America’s freshest face on tour for 2016.
Right now, his spot isn’t exactly guaranteed. With a few big events left in the season, Kanoa could use another result or two in order to make himself perfectly safe. But the tenacity of youth is a powerful thing and Kanoa has what it takes to weather the tumultuous nature of qualification and transcend the minor leagues. SURFING caught up with him before he jetted off to a QS 10,000 in Brazil to find out how he was planning on doing just that. —Jake Tellkamp
SURFING MAGAZINE: What was your goal at the start of the year?
KANOA IGARASHI: I just wanted to stay in the Top 100 so I could compete in the QS 10,000s and try for qualification next year. But in the beginning of the year, I set a single event goal to make the quarters in Ballito — which at the time, I thought was aiming pretty high — but I ended up getting it done. After that, I knew that I was capable of surfing at this level and put all of my focus on the ‘QS.
You were rated 183rd in 2013, 102nd last year and now, you’re 7th. What do you attribute your ascent in the ratings to?
Jake Patterson was traveling with me this year and I gained a lot of confidence and insight from him, but I think the biggest change was just growing up and filling out. My first two years on the QS, I felt like a child amongst men and I was constantly getting out-powered by guys that were way bigger than me.
Being so young, did some of the vets give you a hard time?
Until I started getting results, I think a lot of people just considered me a little kid who shouldn’t even been doing the QS yet. Everywhere I went, I was feeling that and hearing it and eventually it just fired me up to prove that I did belong at this level.
What do you think you would add to the WCT?
I would be the first Japanese person to make the tour, so that alone sets me apart. I have dual citizenship with America and Japan but I’m definitely going to be representing the U.S.A. Still, I hope that if I qualify, it will inspire Hiroto and other Japanese surfers to strive for the tour.
Do you think there would be any bitterness from the Japanese surfing community?
I represent both so either way, one country is going to be bummed. Japan’s been very supportive of me and I wouldn’t of gotten this far without them, but going about changing your nationality is an arduous process and I think I would get screwed having to pay taxes in both countries [laughs].
If you qualify, are you going to travel to tour stops that you feel you need more confidence at?
I currently spend 11 months of the year traveling to places in order to immerse myself in conditions that I can’t find in California. It’s something that I am always working on — qualification or not. Aside from Fiji, I’ve already been to every wave on tour. I’ve been putting hours in at Pipe and Chopes, and those are the two events that I want to prove myself at the most. I’d feel way better about making the quarters in Tahiti rather than at Snapper or Lowers. My goal for next year is to get results at places where people won’t be putting me on their fantasy teams.
Qualifying would cut down the amount of events your doing drastically. What are you going to do with that free time in between events?
It’d be pretty stupid not to back myself up on the QS, so I’ll still be doing a few events still but definitely not as many as I’m doing now. I might get bored [laughs]. The last few years, I’ve been focusing so much on results that I haven’t really put out an edit — so I’m looking forward to filming a project in Portugal with you guys