At dinner one night, Kanoa mentioned that he could make more money if he chose to surf for Japan. The decision really means nothing more than that. It has no influence on his passport or citizenship — it’s just as easy as an email to the WSL. He explained his feelings over a steak.
“I grew up as an American, so why would I change that now? I mean, that’s where I’m from. I’ve had people from the USA supporting me my whole career, so I don’t want to switch to Japan just because I qualified.”
“But on the other hand, I’m 100 percent Japanese. I’ve always been able to speak Japanese and I have a lot of family and really close friends who still live there. Plus I’d be the first Japanese to ever qualify for the tour. It’s a hard one for me right now.”
Harder too because Kanoa didn’t necessarily grow up as the darling of American media. You show me any other American’s path to the CT and I’ll show you covers, spreads, profiles, projects, Instagram posts, etc. But while the American media is well aware of how talented Kanoa is, his rise to the elite has been strangely silent.
“Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I’m not 100 percent American. Or maybe people just think I’m too focused on competition to care about all of that. But then again, I’ve had my fair share of opportunities — maybe I just didn’t do too well with them?” he laughs.
Japan has been a different story.
“I’ve had four TV shows in Japan. The earliest was when I was 9, and the most recent was just this past year. It’s a cool fan base over there, definitely bigger than my US fan base.”
But will it affect his decision of which flag to fly?
“I don’t want to go into Snapper surfing for a country feeling like I shouldn’t be. Because at the end of the day, you want to do good for your country. So I’m just going to go with whatever I feel more comfortable representing.”
It’s easy to sense that he’s torn. It’s even easier to sense tugging from different directions. His eyes see the perks of both sides and his ears are a battleground of suggestive whispers. It’s a decision that can be made in a split second, but there will be a colorful emblem to remind him, and the world, of which side he chose for the next 20 years.
Kanoa’s goal one day is to win a world title. As of press time, one month before the beginning of the WSL’s 2016 CT