Hello and Konnichi wa,
“Big in Japan” is the latest History of Surfing post, and it brought to mind something I’ve occasionally wondered about over years—namely, the ups and downs of surfing nations. In the 1980s it was Japan, more than Brazil, that looked ready to muscle in on the Aussie-American monopoly. And economically, I suppose it did just that. Japan’s Nakasone-era surf boom had to do with manufacturing and trade as much as it did with producing hot new wave-riding talent (there was plenty of that too), and from what ace photographer John Callahan tells me, Japan’s strengths are still intact, it’s just that the industry—pro-level surf talent included—is now targeted almost exclusively to a domestic market. Brazil, of course, went in another direction, and we’ll get to that a few weeks down the line.
Oh and for what it’s worth, Japan built the first interesting wavepool.
You never saw many photos or videos of Hawaiian WCT pro Kaipo Jaquias in the 1990s, which is a shame, but understandable, as Kaipo didn’t exactly avoid the spotlight but didn’t chase it either. But wow, he was a fantastic surfer. A keg-shaped little guy with a heavy back foot. Threw hammers like a mini-me Sunny Garcia and had the best smile on the world tour apart from Pam Burridge. I interviewed Kaipo in 1993. He was 22, with a nine-month-old son—Kaimana Jaquias, who grew up to rip like his old man. What Kaipo had to say about being a dad, and about his own father, and about growing up poor in Kauai, was wise and reasoned, and of all the hot young guns I interviewed over the years, this sweet Hawaiian pitbull was in many ways the most impressive. The video I posted last week doesn’t do Kaipo’s surfing justice, but I’m glad it’s out there, because there ain’t much else to see.
Thanks for reading, everybody, and see you next week.
[Wavepool photo by John Seaton Callahan]