Kanoa Igarashi is coming back to Huntington Beach chasing a historic third US Open victory. It would be a fitting way to cap off a solid CT season for the Huntington local, during which he also won a Silver Medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Surfing for Japan, and having grown up in Huntington, a third US Open win would mean a season in which he tasted victory at the two major spheres of influence in his life and career.
This year's US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach presented by Shiseido is the first event of the 2021 Challenger Series, so the stakes are high as athletes chase Championship Tour qualification. But with wins in 2017 and 2018, and an intimate knowledge of the Huntington waves, Igarashi is going to be tough to beat. We caught up with the World No. 8 ahead of the event.
WSL: What do you think about the event in a different time frame and the atmosphere that awaits?
Igarashi: This is our time (laughs). This is when the locals get their beach back. From June until about August I feel like we lose Huntington a little bit to the tourism and crowds. Then from September into October is our golden time of the year when people get to see the real Huntington.
There's the nice temperatures, beautiful sunsets every day, and crystal clear mornings with light winds all day - and there's always a good combo swell in the water. I'm excited for people to see a different side of Huntington and be there with a little more breathing space than usual.
You're coming off a massive year. Finishing No. 8 in the world and claiming an Olympic Silver Medal. How's your mindset coming home to this event?
I'm in a really unique headspace right now as a competitor and a person. I've taken the last three weeks off in a way. Not just competitively but mentally and taking a lot of time to myself. I've been doing a lot of surfing, spending time with friends, and going into this contest I'm super motivated. If I win this event, I believe I'm the only person to win this event three times (next to Rob Machado and Tim Curren). It's really cool to be sharing (two wins) with one of my heroes in Brett (Simpson) but I'd love to separate myself with a third.
Starting the Challenger Series after the CT is wrapped, what are your ambitions and plans for the end of the year?
Since Barra I feel like I've done a pretty big reset and in a way I'm excited to see how my mindset is going into this event. I'm pretty clear-headed and I don't have to worry about pacing myself. When I've competed at the US Open in the past it's usually in the middle of the season so I'm a little more worried about pacing myself and focusing on the Europe leg right after.
But this year it's one of my last events of the year so I can push myself as hard as I want and it's why I'm really excited for this event. I can give it my all and hopefully give the local people a show, and welcome my friends from overseas as well. Even the years I've won, I haven't felt like I've been able to surf my best Huntington yet just with my head being other places so hopefully I can kick it into gear next week.
The US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach presented by Shiseido runs between September 20 - 26, and will be streamed live on WorldSurfLeague.com.