"You'll Know Who Taro Watanabe Is Soon, If You Don't Already" - Stab Mag

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“You’ll Know Who Taro Watanabe Is Soon, If You Don’t Already”

Watch ‘Back and Forth’ — 12 minutes of anti-gravity finners and grabless tube finesse.

cinema // Nov 11, 2023
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Ryan Callinan considers hands-free tuberiding the pinnacle of backside surfing.

Usually, something existing at the ‘pinnacle’ means one must surpass other accomplishments to get there. Taro Watanabe, however, is skipping pigdogging altogether and instead learning to backside tube ride with no hands. 

“I like no-grabbing,” Taro quietly told me. “It honestly feels more comfortable for me a lot of the time, so I’ve just been doing that. There’s no secret, I think it’s just preference. I haven’t really grown up surfing barreling lefts, it’s something I’m pretty new at. I’m just trying things out, learning, and seeing what works for me. For now it’s been no-grab backside barrels,” he laughs.

As you’ll see above, the 21-year old (full name Taro Kelly Slater Watanabe) manages to snag a fair few grabless reef maulers between bouts of anti-gravity fin drifting. 

The percentage of surfers who can put themselves in this position without pig-dogging is surely <1%. Screengrab — Quinn Graham

On a recent episode of Soundings with Jamie Brisick, Brad Gerlach said “You’ll know who Taro Watanabe is soon, if you don’t already.”

Earlier this year, Taro finished second at the Steamer Lane Coldwater Classic — blowing past World #1 (at the time) Griffin Colapinto and recent Challenger Series winner Cole Houshmand in a frenzy of upside-down blowtails and stylish knees.

Though he hasn’t fully found his QS rhythm beyond that result, this clip, created by Quinn Graham, is an aesthetically explosive step toward the recognition Taro absolutely deserves. And, the final section — a impactful collection of Taro’s trademark layback/blowtails — makes one wonder why Yo-Yos didn’t get a mention in our ‘Best Onshore Waves’ story.

“The whole edit came about pretty organically,” filmmaker Quinn told me. “Just a small idea that kept growing and growing. I think we’ve been filming it for about five months.”

Though ‘Back and Forth’ didn’t get a look in at SEOTY because of some music licensing speed-bumps, Taro’s uniquely committed swagger makes us wonder where it would’ve ranked in the pile of Euro-heavy edits. And if you didn’t get enough of him here, Taro is one of the guest stars in our new (still to be titled) Chippa & friends film, which we’re currently producing with Monster.

Click above, and relish in the fact that nobody surfs like Taro.

If you want to learn blowtails, we suggest pausing and restarting this clip a million times. Screengrab — Quinn Graham


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