Stab Magazine | Watch: Five Reasons Why Japan Is A Desirable (Yet Fickle) Surf Locale

Stab High Japan Presented By Monster Energy Will Be Broadcast Live On June 21st and June 22nd from 5 PM - 10 PM PDT


Watch: Five Reasons Why Japan Is A Desirable (Yet Fickle) Surf Locale

“Cross over the line and they will simply inform you that you are done.” – @waterfordragons.

style // Sep 7, 2017
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ever since Japan blipped the internet’s radar back in 2012, in the lead up to Kai Neville’s “Dear Suburbia”, the fickle and occasionally perfect nature of the region has piqued interest in surfers worldwide. Scott Bailey, the gent behind the Instagram @waterfordragons, has been bringing gentle double taps with his footage of Japan’s most recent typhoon. We caught up with him for an in depth analysis of the Land of the Rising Sun:

So you are interested in surfing the Japans, are you? I use the plural form as it is impossible to speak of the place in the singular, it’s too divergent, too illusive, too transitory, too infuriating, and too mesmerising to speak of it in any other way. Now I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Before I delve into the land of confusion I should introduce myself. Kiaora. My name is Scott Bailey and I’m a Kiwi born in a city of lakes. Arrived over this side almost two decades back and been walking on water ever since (staggering more like) salt drunk and singing. When I first came I actually arrived without a board but that changed rather quickly, although boards don’t last long. As Ian Walsh said when he walked into a typhoon implausibility a few years back, “who would have thought this place would kick like Hawaii.” It kicks alright, the ultimate karate chop to the stringer. And now you have two boards. Chopsticks. 

So questions you have? When to come. Well you are talking to one converted. I say whenever you can. The typhoon gods say between July and September is the better bet. But I have seen the middle of winter lined up to the horizon and fanned by trade winds from Siberia. But out of season the swells are largely heading away towards Hawaii, frisbees from the thrown, no boomerangs here. The water is warm and clean for the most part. You will need rubber for winter but in summer the sun is the problem, it’s as hot as Indo and you are part of the stewing process. Bring a grovel board and a step up with plenty of glass. And bring a pair of arms, and then a back up pair. Train them like you mean it. It jumps form bathtub backwash to Backdoor beatings in a heartbeat and the old ticker finds it hard to trade beat for beats. And then back the hell off. Pick your waves, save your energy, save your arms, save your life. Nine typhoons in six weeks doesn’t sound like a lot but try and keep a skeleton and a quiver together is harder than you think.

Embrace the outer channels, take your position in the lineup at the fringes. Do not think that your ability dictates privilege. Surfing this Kingdom is all about etiquette.  I know you have heard it all before but it is essentially prevalent in these waters. The old boys hold sway and they fashioned this system as their culture fashioned swords. As the old Japanese proverb states, “the nail that sticks out gets hammered.” And if you think you make the rules as nobody seemed to say otherwise, cross over the line and they will simply inform you that you are done. You will never surf here again. And they police their authority with rocks at your ears. It is a beautiful thing really as it has kept this place alive. And where sometimes they gets things wrong, swallow your pride, it doesn’t mean you have to be right. It is a small mouthful to choke down to surf water of this quality. Have you ever dragged your hand in the roof of an eight foot barrel watching a myriad of coloured rocks flash between your feet and fish jumping through the barrel. It gets this good. And then it gets better.

Waterfordragons (Scott’s Instagram account) is a life’s work. I have fashioned each sketch from hard bloody toil through infuriating flat spells and a web of impenetrable politics. And yet, it has been nothing but a privilege. To experience surf that can only be described as water near completion has been a marvel. Too capture it and portray a part of it has been scintillating. To find friendship and brotherhood in somewhere foreign to resonate so much like home has been humbling to the core. To surf better than my ability and deep into a life has been invigorating.

You know, it is a beautiful thing to be running laps around your car, from camera box to fin box, pulling things out and then reaching for the other. Sprinting across blazing hot sand in whistling typhoon offshore, shooting all the way to the waterline. Ditching your camera in plain sight of the world on the blazing hot sand, knowing it will be there (though slightly torched) for more once you have picked off a couple to keep the internal surfing wolves at bay. We don’t lock our cars. We don’t get every wave we want. We don’t make every drop. We don’t salvage every board. We don’t get the consistency we crave. And yet we get more than we ever could have asked.


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