Kanoa Igarashi became the first Japanese surfer to win an elite World Surf League’s Championship Tour event on Saturday, when he topped the men’s competition at the Corona Bali Protected.
Igarashi, a medal hopeful at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, earned 15.10 points in his final heat, beating France’s Jeremy Flores by 0.47 points on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.
With the win, Igarashi placed No. 2 in the men’s Championship Tour rankings. The Championship Tour consists of 11 events, with 10 men earning a berth for the 2020 Summer Games based on their tour rankings.
Igarashi was thrilled with the outcome.
“It all makes sense,” Igarashi said. “All of the hard work you do makes sense after this. My first round was so terrible. I didn’t catch any waves and I was just thinking what is the point of all of the hard work you do … all of the time in the gym, all of the time alone and surfing alone and now it all makes sense. This means so much to me. I can’t even find words to describe it.”
He continued: “Every heat meant a lot to me and I wanted to give my all no matter who I was up against. No matter what the conditions were like, I just wanted to adapt to the conditions and throw everything at it. From the first round to the final, I surfed the same but then I feel like in thefFinal I peaked and I did everything right…”
The 21-year-old finished ninth at the two previous events on the tour this season.
Igarashi, whose parents moved to California before he was born and raised him on the waves of surfing hot spot Huntington Beach, switched his competitive nationality last year in a bid to represent Japan at the 2020 Summer Games, when surfing will make its Olympic debut.