The average 20-year old’s mind may be going in a million directions, however, Kanoa’s Igarashi’s is focused on the path to the Olympics. We explored the origin of his samurai blood that runs through his veins like a hit of wasabi. While he is American by birth but Japanese by heritage, he may have a new flag next to his heat score. Nevertheless, he still bleeds red, white and blue. So after a sesh at Kelly’s Ranch and with the jersey off, we talked about his unique upbringing, remaing a student of the road and the direction of his future compass.
WY: Hey Kanoa, what’s going on?
Kanoa Igarashi: Just got out of the wave pool.
You have been traveling your whole life… where’s one place you would like to go before you die?
I want to go to Ibiza or Monaco and just be a 20 year old. [Laughs] All surf locations I have covered.
Is it challenging to balance a girlfriend and traveling at the same time? Or is it nice?
I don’t know any other way. I’m really happy with what I am doing right now. When I do make my time for a girl or friends it truly means something for that person and for myself. I really cherish that moment. It keeps things fresh.
What’s your favorite pastime on the road?
I really like to read. Obviously being on my phone I don’t have that much time, to be honest. I have this thing to be busy. I like catching up with my friends. Definitely, my biggest fear is to be 60 years old and be like, “I wish I did this or this.
What was going through your head in this last US Open final?
That whole day was a blur, it was like when I won last year. I felt like I was on autopilot. It’s really hard to explain. There was something in my body that guided me in the right direction. My emotions were strong. Physically I was a little fatigued but mentally I was ready to go with my friends pumping things up. This wasn’t a time to feel tired.
What do you listen to get you in that frame of mind?
I listen to Yung Pinch, he’s a rapper from Huntington. Obviously, he is my homie and I know his story. It fires me up. I like listening to his music in general. Having that Huntington Beach vibe around me really helps.
I saw your little brother walking around with a cutie during the Open, what advice would you give yourself at his age?
For me to soak in each moment. There are so many things in our life that can go wrong. I have been to places and not take advantage of them. Also to be a more open-minded person. Take the most out of each day. I’m really grateful for what I have at the moment. I didn’t have the same childhood as most kids. I don’t know if I matured earlier or not. But surfing was the best thing to happen to me.
With a politically divided climate today, how important is to you represent your roots and homeland in the Olympics in 2020?
It kinda got blown out of proportion. For me, I grew up in America and represent Huntington Beach. I’ll never lose that side of me, that’s where I grew up. That’s the thing I notice the most. The true fans that have been around since day one were un-phased and knew it guaranteed me a spot in the Olympics. It’s one more surfer from the Olympics that lives in America and represents Huntington. I’m just following my blood and heritage. I am stoked on it. I feel very proud to make my family proud. That’s what it is all about. It’s the ultimate thing to stoke them out!
How has your heritage inspired you?
More than people could imagine. That has shaped me into the person I am today. When I wake up that’s the person I am. More importantly, knowing their story and what they did to get here. I have this golden opportunity and I don’t want to drop the ball. That’s what keeps me driven for me and my whole family. My parents worked so hard and risked a lot. That’s my mantra… risk it and don’t give up. That’s how I live every single day. In a general way, how I wake up every morning.
Are you curious about your ancestors?
I have always been really curious. On my mom’s side, my great-great grandpa was a really famous samurai. That’s what could be in my blood a little bit. I can see it also in my great grandpa. He has a fierce look in his eyes in an old photo. He had that samurai blood; the will to reach one’s goals. To fight for it, I think that’s cool.
What would you be doing if you weren’t surfing?
That’s hard to say now. [laughs] But there are a lot of things that interest me from golf to skateboarding. I’m really into architecture, something about it really excites me. I took a course about in school. Plus, I have read a lot of books about it. Whatever I do, I want to influence a younger generation. I always wanted to be a good role model. That’s something in the back of mind. Do good for the world, especially now as a surfer. There are a lot of eyes on me so I want to be a good example. I’m always going to do that. Anything I do. If I were to do something it would be different and cool.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Obviously in the Olympics, it could be the only Olympics I could ever be in. For me, they already started. I already feel like I’m competing. I feel that things are going my way with the position I’m in. I have a good coach, my brother supports me a bunch and I have genuine friends that have been with me since day one. I’m not a normal 20-year-old, but they help make me a normal 20-year-old. I definitely don’t miss that life of going to college and getting a normal job. I would love to get a world title, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I hope for big things in the future and work hard to get it. Then work even harder. -WY
Watch more of Kanoa here: https://youtu.be/c9059m8pZiI