The 21-year-old claimed victory in Bali ahead of the sport's Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020
Kanoa Igarashi has become the first Japanese surfer to win a World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) event, after seeing off three seasoned opponents to clinch his first career win in Bali.
The 21-year-old saw off Adrian Buchan, Kelly Slater, and Jeremy Flores to win on the waves at Keramas Beach on the Indonesian resort island.
All three of his opponents were at least ten years older than him — Slater, an 11-time WSL champion, the oldest at 47.
Igarashi was born in Huntington Beach, California, in the U.S., but represents the country of his parents. He is the first full-time WSL surfer to represent Japan on the CT, and has one eye on a 'home' Olympic Games next year at Tokyo 2020 where surfing will make its Olympic debut.
“It all makes sense," Igarashi said. “All of the hard work you do makes sense after this. This means so much to me. I can’t even find words to describe it.”
While Japan is guaranteed at least one quota spot in each gender at the Games, Igarashi's win moves him closer to qualifying for Tokyo in his own right.
All qualifying surfers from the WSL CT rankings — Igarashi is second following his victory in Indonesia — must also participate in the 2019 and 2020 ISA World Surfing Games (if selected) to be eligible for the Olympic Games.
Igarashi led Japan to team gold at the 2018 World Surfing Games, and can be expected to meet the participation requirement for qualification.
Meanwhile, Australia's Stephanie Gilmore clinched the women's event with a Perfect 10 in the final over compatriot Sally Fitzgibbons. It was Gilmore's 30th CT event win and sent her back to number one in the world rankings.