Can't fight the stoke. All photos: WSL
“I Started Slapping Myself, I Thought I Was Dreaming”
Seven Takeaways from the King of the 714
Going back-to-back at the U.S. Open, it was a career moment for Kanoa Igarashi, one he’d dreamed of since 2010 when Brett Simpson first achieved the feat. Kanoa was fucking fired up, as were the thousands on the beach. At only 20 years old, his victory party was the only thing subdued about the whole experience.
“None of the bars will let me in,” he laughed. “The same thing happened last year.”
That doesn’t mean Kanoa wasn’t hungover. Physically and emotionally depleted, Stab caught up with the new King of H.B. to see what the come down was like.
What’s in a win…
Honestly, I’m sore. Mentally I’m sore. My body’s sore. My eyes are sore. My voice is sore. But my liver’s not sore, which is good. I’m physically and mentally drained, it was more than just a win. Last year was crazy, but this year there was this added pressure of keeping it in the city and more eyes were on because I won last year. People were coming in just to watch me. There was a lot of hype around it this year and I wanted to make sure everyone got them same experience that they got last year.
It added some pressure, but it made it more exciting for me, to be honest.
Slap me I must be dreaming…
The last three nights of the contest I had dreams that I’d won the contest, so when I won it, I was like, ‘My mind’s playing tricks on me, that’s ridiculous.’ I was just scared that when I won it was another dream. My dreams had felt so real that, to be honest, I was scared that it was a dream. They actually showed it on the webcast that once I got the score I started slapping myself in the face really hard, like three or four times, and that was me trying to tell myself to wake-up, that this had better not be a dream. The last three nights I’d wake up from this dream and be pissed off because it wasn’t real. So that’s why I started slapping myself. But it’s starting to feel more real now. It was beyond a win for me. My last wave, that wasn’t a claim, that was just my emotions pouring out. It wasn’t because I thought I got the score or anything.
Going through the motions…
I didn’t feel that good during this contest. I was just going through the motions. I didn’t want to try too hard and blow myself out. I told myself that this was going to be a long contest and I wanted to try and save the best for last to make it exciting. At the end of the day, the U.S. Open is a big show, and us as surfers, we’re pretty much just showmen. We’re trying to rally the crowd and hype everyone up.
Feeding off Griffin…
When I saw Griffin on the other side of the draw I thought it would be sick to have a final with him. We had a final together in 2015. We have history. That was the final I wanted. As soon as we matched up it was like, alright, this is where we let it fly. It was a slow start, but it’s sick that we both got even opportunities at the end of the heat. We feed off each other. When Griffin qualified he must have looked at me and my rookie year. I made the finals of the Pipe Masters the first year I was on tour, and I’m sure he felt like, ‘Oh sick, if he can do it, I can do it.’ It’s a confidence thing. And now, hopefully, Seth can get on tour and he’ll see Griff making semifinals. And he’ll see me making semifinals and finals. And maybe he’ll think, ‘I surf just as good as them, so I can do it too.’ I think before that it wasn’t really like that. Kolohe was on tour really young, but he kind of struggled at first. That’s nothing against him, but the tour’s hard. But I feel like right now there’s a changing of the guard. We’re just running with the momentum.
Seth Moniz is a really good surfer…
I consider Seth one of my really good friends. I really hope he qualifies. I was bummed that we matched up, but he already had a really good result. He’s leading the rankings on the QS. I have no doubt that he’s going to qualify this year. I’d be surprised if he didn’t. I’m just so stoked to see more kids my age on tour. I qualified when I was 17 years old and it felt a little bit lonely. I felt like I was so behind the pack and separated.
I felt like an alien, like I didn’t belong there.
I’m sure it’ll be nice for Seth to get on tour next year, having more young guys. Hopefully Griff and I are still there, and he can feel more comfortable knowing there are guys there his age on tour getting results and stuff. At the end of the day, we’re rivals and we’re trying to beat each other, but the big picture is to grow our sport and make it exciting for viewers. Making him feel comfortable on tour, that’ll push us, and at the end of the day it’ll bring the level of surfing higher…if that makes sense?
Keeping up with the kids…
We are kids compared to everyone else. I’m 20. Griffin’s 20. Seth’s 20, I think. We all grew up watching Kelly Slater win world titles. Kelly had won three world titles by the time we were born. I feel proud to be in this movement of amazing surfing like what Griff and Seth are doing. It definitely pushes me to be the best I can. I get more motivated watching those guys surf than I do older surfers because it’s something I can relate to.
You watch Parko or Kelly and there’s always excuses, like, ‘Oh, he’s been around longer.’ Stuff like that. With Seth and Griffin, they’ve been around just as long as I have. If one of them does a crazy air, it’s like, I should be doing that too. We all feed off of each other and I think it’s a good, healthy movement that’s good for our sport. I feel like I’m still growing up in my own surfing. There’s so many things I want to improve on and know I can improve on. With these guys, it’s like pushing me, but I know what I need to work on. I’m the biggest critic of myself. I’m 20 years old, I have plenty of time, but at the same time, I want to be on tour dominating as much as guys like Filipe are, so I’m always going to strive to become better.
Brett’s still the man…
After the final Brett came down and gave me a high five and it meant so much to me. The fact that he was down on the water’s edge where there were thousands of people, he wanted to make sure he was one of the first ones to congratulate me. I actually blacked out for a second. I don’t know if people saw it, one of my buddies kind of caught me. That moment was huge, and with Brett, it was kind of like the gesture of taking the crown off his head and putting it on my head. I couldn’t believe it. I kept pinching myself. I have three marks on my arm from pinching myself so hard I was bleeding. That’s kind of how that day was.