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04.09.04 - NIPPON DOMO ARIGATO
Ex sarge, Quiksilver Pro Japan, Hebara/Chiba, Saturday September 4th, 2004.
Chris Davidson THAT curious collection of letters up in the title for this piece is the English spelling and pronunciation of some Japanese words – ‘Nippon’ is Japanese for Japan, ‘Domo’ is thanks, and ‘arigato’ is thank you – put together, and then into English grammar it’s ‘Thank You Very Much Japan!’If you’d seen the waves we had here yesterday – challenging 4-6’ right handers, reeling along the edge of a reef, hollow and clean – you’d be throwing up some ‘Domo Arigato’s as well! Yep, Japan! Hawaii’s Kalani Robb declared that it looked like to the North Shore’s Velzyland! The day’s side-saddlecollection of heats from rounds two and three of the Quiksilver Pro Japan, the sixth WCT of this enthralling season, had the best waves any ASP event has EVER been blessed with in the Land of The Rising Sun. Unbelievable, and such a stoke!

Highlights (?)…besides the waves, were not just the surfing standards that our world’s best again laid bare and bold for all to see and appreciate, but the support and interest of the locals privileged to be there and witness what was nothing less than a spectacle, as well as the efficiency and passion of the Quiksilver WCT machine and the local ASP licensee in hunting down and using the best waves available. Besides the resounding hoots of both the enthralled pros and Japanese spectators present, if you’d banked a buck for every time you heard the phrase “Can you believe we’re in Japan?!”, you’d have gone home considerably wealthier than when you first rolled off a footon and onto the traditional thatched bamboo floor of your Mamasan accommodation at dawn. Geez it was good!

We began the event and ran to heat four of round two on Thursday, the second day of the waiting period, in cross-shore 2-3.5’ beachbreaks at the main event site of Hebara, some two hours drive south-east of Tokyo. As in most instances along this ancient and mountainous chain of volcanic isles, the swell came from a typhoon, this one named ‘Chaba’, a throaty low pressure system roaming around down in the Sea of Japan. After delivering conditions for day one that still kept us satisfied in a place where ‘normal’ conditions are a long way from those now routinely expected and often scored on the WCT tour by taking events to exotic and famed locations in seasonally logical windows, Chaba projected us lines from exactly the right angle to turn on the hitherto largely unknown Katsuura City reef break named ‘Malibu’.

Taj Burrow was the first out of bed yesterday, keen for a surf about 450am, just beating the crack of dawn and the sunlight that streamed down upon us for the rest of the day. For he and the rest of us, who were up and at it shortly thereafter, it was blatantly obvious that the swell had jumped appreciably. The banks at Hebara were way too straight for the bumped up swell, and so around 545am, the search began for an alternate venue. Just ten minutes drive north, the normally culturally heavy and politically sensitive locale of Malibu was there firing in all its glory and by the grace of the local tribal elders, and the eventual but not so co-operative local police, we got the contest machine up and running by 9am, complete with web-streaming by about 1030am, quite a feat for a remote location. Good on ASP computer whizzcats Brasileiros Mano Zuil and Robson Machado, and Quiky’s Jason Haynes on that score who got the event out to the surfing world.

Besides the stunning sight of sick peeling walls here in Japan, it was a somewhat surreal scene up there at Malibu yesterday. The Malibu break sits right out front of a seawall which supports a road fly-around, the man-made concrete contours stark contrast to Mother Nature’s natural power and lines. We made great use of the concrete though, both the organization and the big crowds present loving every vantage point, above and below the roadway.

The Japanese surfing culture deserves such blessings as God bestowed on us with those waves yesterday. The Japanese also thoroughly deserve our respect and appreciation - their surfers, their industry and their economy have contributed hugely towards pro’ surfing’s development over the past 20 years. Back in the ‘80’s Japan’s legendary Mr.Aioi and his Marui department store chain were comfortably the sport’s number one supporter. At one stage Marui were sponsoring two WCTs in Japan, one here at Hebara and one on the island of Nijiima where we had last year’s Quiky Pro, as well as the Pipeline Masters event in Hawaii. In addition to that, liased by the ASP’s former CEO Graham Cassidy, Mr.Aioi personally contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to various ASP projects and functions. Add to that history the fact that numerous Japanese surfing companies and surf shops sponsored almost every Top 16 surfer back in the ‘80s before Japanese talent came of age, and you get just a tiny measure of the massive hand Japan has lent to our art, sport and culture. Nippon Domo Arigato (…and Quiky)!!!
ENDS