For many of the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour competitors, putting on a jersey isn't on the forefront of their minds just yet -- except for one. Kanoa Igarashi's stellar performance at the Billabong Pipe Masters secured his place on the Dream Tour for 2017, and he's not taking that for granted. Igarashi is geared up for the Shoe City Pro Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000 beginning tomorrow morning and it's a special one for the Huntington Beach native on a multitude of levels.
WSL had a chance to catch up with Igarashi on his exciting 2016 season, what 2017 may hold in store and his relationship with his iconic homebreak -- Huntington Beach.
WSL: Why did you want to start your season early and enter this event?
Kanoa Igarashi: I haven't felt like I've had a restart in probably ten years. It just doesn't stop, so it'll be cool to tell myself that I've got a break until February to work on some things. Normally I'd be in Hawaii or chasing swell, but this is the first contest that my brother Keanu and I have had the chance to surf in together, so I wanted to come home for a bit and be able to train but at the same time do this contest.
This is also the first QS contest I ever won and that day wasn't too long ago. I remember it so well. All my friends and family were there. It was such a cool moment. I went into the event as an underdog and now I'm being looked at as a favorite. It's crazy how two years can change all that. It'll be fun to surf as a favorite rather than an underdog for once, that's for sure.
How special is it to have this opportunity and to also play the role of coach?
It's going to be great and hopefully I'll get to surf with Keanu in this event. He's in a similar position I was in, even though he's a few years younger than me. I was super grommed out at this event a couple years ago. It was one of my first QS events and I barely knew what I was doing. I'll be able to coach him through some heats and also show it in motion. There's some heat strategy keys I want to teach him, so I'm hoping he soaks it in. For Keanu, there's no pressure and he's just competing to learn. I hope he's down here all day watching heats and keying in.
You're incredible Pipe run set you up for a promising 2017. What are you looking to change about your competitive surfing to continue that success?
This year I really want to step it up and come in hot to show that my last event at the end of the year wasn't a fluke. It's always my goal to just show my surfing in events and it may have taken me a lot of the year, but I'm stoked I was able to showcase that in at least one of the events. I know that if I show my real surfing it will translate into good results, and this contest will help me find my feet back in the wax, and help me find out where I'm at.
This year I really want to step it up and come in hot. I know that if I show my real surfing it will translate into good results. There's no pressure on me to do well in this contest and it's a great way to start the year.
You have a hefty relationship with Huntington after a series of results.
It's just been a place where I didn't expect to do well for whatever reason. And then there is also events like the US Open where I have expected myself to perform. I've had both sides of that feeling. Huntington is a wave that's always different so I never have one thing that I stick to but I've surfed out here so many times, in so many conditions that I don't feel that need to worry about a serious warm up or getting boards ready. There's no pressure on me to do well in this contest and it's a great way to start the year.