Kanoa Igarashi: The Rising Surfing Star

Kanoa Igarashi: A familiar household name in Japan and a name undoubtedly worthy of its growing popularity in the world of surfing, particularly in the western surfing hot spots such as Brazil, Australia, and the USA. This rising surfing star from Japan is destined to reach the top and give it his all to bring home the gold.

Kanoa Igarashi is an American surfer from Japanese descent who’s been on the world-surfing scene since 2012. In 2016, at age 18, he entered as the youngest beginner to the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour. He is a silver medalist from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and a 2024 Paris Olympic qualifier.

Let’s dive into the life of this rising star. We will explore why Kanoa Igarashi chooses to surf for Japan. We will look at his early life, family, net worth, ranking, multilingual abilities, sponsors, participation in the Olympics and WSL competitions, world title aspirations, and his ever-growing inspirational Instagram account.

Kanoa Igarashi: Birthplace And Early Years

Kanoa Igarashi was born to parents Tsutomu and Misa on October 1st, 1997, in Huntington Beach, California- dubbed “Surf City.” Kanoa was always destined to surf as Tsutomu, his father, grew up in Japan and was an ardent surfer in the 1960s.

Kanoa’s parents quit their jobs and moved from Tokyo to California just before his birth, hoping to raise him to be a competitive surfer. Kanoa was literally born riding a surfboard! At age 3, his father had him hitting the beach and riding the waves as early as 5:45 am each morning so he could still be on time for a day at school.

By age 7, Kanoa had already signed his first endorsement deal with a local surf shop and won his first surfing trophy.

The Igarashi parents were committed to grooming Kanoa into being one of the youngest and most promising surfers. The sacrifices made by his parents allowed Kanoa to live out his surfing dream and enabled him to qualify for the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour in 2015.

Kanoa Igarashi made headlines in 2016 when he competed in the WSL for the first time and because he was the first representative surfer for Japan. He may have been the youngest surfer on tour, but he was by no means unskilled. He was about to prove his skills to be on point by surfing those waves with precision.

Kanoa At The Olympics And WSL Competitions

Kanoa represented Japan in Tokyo’s first-ever Summer Olympic Games in 2020. However, the games were postponed to July 2021 due to the 2019 coronavirus pandemic. Ironically, the chosen beach for the competition was the same beach that Keanu’s father surfed at back in his surfing days.

Tsutomu Igarashi and his friends discovered this beach back in the ’60s. The boys climbed through fences and hiked through tall grass to find this wave. It became their little private “secret” beach, and they discovered the perfect wave they nicknamed the “Dojo.”

Most of the Japanese competitors learned to surf at this beach. Little did Tsutomu know that his son would compete at this secret little beach spot at the Olympics one day.

It must have been an incredibly proud and emotional moment for Kanoa’s father indeed, as the same wave his son was competing at the Olympics for the first time was the same wave that he had discovered. What a unique story, for sure!

After being defeated by Brazil’s Italo Ferreira in the men’s final, Kanoa walked away with a silver medal.

2019 is marked as Kanoa’s best year yet, as he was ranked number 6 in the WSL CT World Tour and took the win.

Some of Kanoa’s other significant WSL surfing achievements are:

 

Tournament Name Year 2016 Year 2017 Year 2018 Year 2019
Hurley Pro at Trestles 13th 5th
Fiji Pro 13th 25th
Billabong Pipeline Masters 2nd 3rd 13th 17th
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal 13th 3rd 5th 3rd
Quicksilver Pro France 13th 25th 25th 17th
Freshwater Pro 3rd 9th
Billabong Pro Tahiti Teahupoo 13th 13th 9th 17th
Corona Open J-Bay 13th 25th 3rd 5th
Oi Rio Pro 13th 9th 9th 5th
Margaret River Pro 13th 13th 25th 9th
Corona Bali Protected 25th 1st
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach 13th 25th 25th 9th
Quicksilver Pro Gold Coast 9th 25th 9th 9th
FINAL RANKING 20th 17th 10th 6th

 

Kanoa also boasts 2 US Open of Surfing champion wins in 2017 and 2018, and he is an inductee of the Surfers’ Hall of Fame, an imprint collection of legendary surfers in California Huntington Beach.

Kanoa Igarashi

Is Kanoa A World Title Holder?

Even with a silver Olympic medal on the shelf and securing a quota spot to participate in the 2024 Olympic games to be held in Paris, Kanoa Igarashi has yet to become a world title holder.

He secured his spot by participating in the 2022 ISA World Surfing Games and achieved one of his personal goals when he secured top 5 world status at this competition.

He was grateful to have been afforded the opportunity of competing in his first world title event and to have been given a chance to fight for the world champion title holder.

At the 2022 Rip Curl WSL Finals held at Lower Trestles, California, last September, Kanoa remained motivated and fixed on achieving his ultimate dream. However, Brazilian surfer Filipe Toledo walked away with his first world title at this event.

We are pretty confident that Kanoa won’t give up any time soon. For now, we believe that Kanoa will focus on the qualification spot that Japan won for the men’s event for the 2024 Olympics.

Considering that Kanoa won his first gold medal at the 2022 ISA World Surfing Games, we do not doubt that he will bring home a gold medal from the 2024 Olympics.

He is currently taking all the steps needed to work towards his ultimate goal, a world title. We suggest you watch this space!

Kanoa’s focused plan is to upgrade his silver medal to gold and pursue victory, hoping to earn his highly sought-after world title.

Kanoa Igarashi

Why Does Kanoa Surf For Japan?

Since Kanoa was born and raised in America, it has been a questionable matter in the past as to why he chose to surf for Japan in the 2020 Olympics.

Although Kanoa can understand the cause of the controversy, his answer remains simple. He claims that although he grew up in America, his Japanese heritage remains. He feels that surfing for Japan is a good way of honoring his Japanese-born parents for all the sacrifices they made for their son to live out his dream.

Kanoa also believes that his decision will set an excellent example for the youth of the Asian surfing industry, giving the younger generation something to look up to and be exposed to the world of surfing too.

How Many Languages Can Kanoa Igarashi Speak?

Although Kanoa Igarashi was born in California, he speaks fluent Japanese. Thanks to all the inevitable social engagements, sponsorship obligations, and competitions that come with professional surfing, Kanoa is not just bilingual; he is multilingual!

Besides Japanese and English, he also speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and French. Talk about a man of many talents!

Kanoa learned to speak Portuguese at age 18 after falling in love with Portugal when he first started to compete on the Iberian Peninsula. When Igarashi is not competing, he usually returns to Ericeira, Portugal, his “second home.” He also owns a home in Cascais and spends much of his training time riding the waves in Portugal.

Who Are Kanoa’s Sponsors?

Kanoa is a Red Bull athlete, and his sponsors in the Western world also include:

  • Quicksilver
  • Oakley
  • Beats by Dr. Dre
  • Shiseido
  • G-Shock
  • Dior
  • Audi
  • VISA

Kanoa has endorsements and sponsors in Japan, too, namely:

  • A multinational skincare line.
  • A cup noodle producer.
  • Japanese airlines.
  • Soft drink companies.
  • TV stations.
  • Construction firms.

Kanoa’s name and face are easily recognizable in Japan as he takes part in regular appearances on Japanese reality TV shows.

Kanoa Igarashi

The Igarashi Brothers: Kanoa And Keanu

Good surfing genes run in the Igarashi family for sure, as Kanoa has a younger brother who is certainly no amateur. Keanu Igarashi was born in May 2002 and has a similar physical build and look to his older brother.

Keanu received a name for himself in the surfing community when he participated in his first qualifying series, Shoe City Pro, at 13. He also competes in various surfing competitions. At this same competition in 2017, Kanoa and Keanu (then aged 19 and 13) surfed together competitively for the first time.

Big brother was in the lead, but Keanu gave it his best attempt. Fortunately for him, Kanoa is always willing to teach Keanu some surfing strategies.

Let’s look at Keanu’s most recent surfing results in the Men’s Qualifying Series for 2023/2024.

 

Name Of Event Defeated By Placing
SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach Sebastian Mendes 65th
SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay Levi Slawson 33rd
Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro Alan Cleland 25th
Cabarete Pro Malakai Martinez 33rd
Barbados Surf Pro Josh Burke 49th
Jack’s Surfboards Pro Crosby Colapinto 13th

 

People often wonder whether Keanu will follow in Kanoa’s Olympic footsteps. Kanoa, being the great and supportive brother he is, is also keen to help his brother reach his full potential.

Keanu Igarashi aims to compete in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Kanoa’s current focus is on his own, pending the 2024 Olympics. Still, he remains committed to helping his brother to fulfill his Olympic dreams too.

Besides surfing, Keanu loves to travel and has already seen much of what the world offers.

Getting To Know Kanoa Igarashi

If you ask Kanoa what the most important things in his life are, he’d most likely tell you three things:

  1. His family
  2. The Ocean
  3. His inner circle

Kanoa, the highest-ranked Japanese surfer of all time, keeps his family and friends nearby. He travels with them often, and he made a resolution in 2022 to always put those around him first.

Kanoa has starred in Japanese reality TV since he was 11 years old. His growth was followed by camera crews, particularly on the championship tours, and he quickly became a celebrity in Asia. Since then, Kanoa has starred in many films and TV shows, including a couple of series’ for Red Bull.

Kanoa Igarashi On Instagram

Kanoa’s Instagram page is definitely worth a follow, as he posts consistently, thus sporting a strong social media presence. It boasts everything from surfing (obviously) to food and traveling, a good chunk of photo shoots, training progress, side projects, and uplifting and inspirational content.

In 2019, he won the “Athlete of the Year” trophy at the GQ Men of the Year awards, looking as dapper as ever.

He’s a sushi-loving foodie and a well-traveled guy who is also relatively comfortable with a camera in his face. He’s often seen posing for Dior and embracing the catwalks. Yet, he still indulges in his favorite sporting events, such as supporting the LA Lakers and F1 racing.

Kanoa has 593 K and growing followers, and his Instagram handle is @kanoaigarashi.

Keanu Igarashi is also active on Instagram as @keanuigarashi and has 27 K followers. Keanu has interestingly had his Instagram since age ten and enjoys posting pictures of his socializing events and travel destinations.

Kanoa’s Ranking And Net Worth

Kanoa Igarashi is ranked number 20 in the WSL CT World Tour 2023 and has an estimated net worth of $1,857,950.

No doubt that Kanoa is recognized as one of the highest-paid surfers in the world today.

His estimated earnings from the WSL World Championship Tours from 2016 up until 2019 are as follows:

  • 2016: $157, 250
  • 2017: $153, 250
  • 2018: $174, 600
  • 2019: $ 253, 900

Conclusion

Kanoa Igarashi is most certainly a surfer to keep an eye on. 2019 may have been his best year so far, but will his positive, calm, and humble attitude, we do not doubt that this rising star from Japan is capable of many more achievements. He’s fluid, quick, precise, and surfs with ease and flow. We genuinely believe that a world title is not far from his reach.

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