"Pray for Japan" was the message sent out after the Tsunami hit earlier this year on the East coast of Japan. Truly terrible to see on TV what happened and many thoughts went to my friends that moment and the following weeks after. Some Japanese sailors made up a sticker and some of us have been racing with it all year, to show respect for the victims and to what happened. I was happy to return to Japan this year to see my friends - and was asked many times by people "if I was ever scared to return" … The answer was "NO!".
After a crazy year of traveling and just arriving from Cuba to Sydney, my sails were once again set for Tokyo. Japan is always a place I really look forward to visit and representing Starboard. It's so different from anything else in this world and the people there are so friendly.
After arriving in Tokyo on a very empty Boeing 747, actually only 60 people aboard - due to a strike the week earlier everyone had canceled their flights to change carrier. So it was quite nice to have one's own sofa row, as business class was not an option.
Traveling light, just a 12 m sail and mast, the rest was supplied in Japan by Manueverline in Tokyo. Wish traveling would be that easy every time. I arrived in Narita airport in the morning and was picked up by Mr. Oishi who took me to Haneda for my connecting flight to Oita - Kyoto Island. Airports in Japan are such a pleasure; peaceful and absolutely no stress and they never charge for excess in the 3 years I have been there. Finally arriving in Oita it was a little cold and raining and not much wind. However, rest was needed from all the traveling so that was cool.
Baien Cup has been held for 14 years now. It used to be a huge event, but numbers are a little down, but I guess it follows the trend for the rest of the world. Nevertheless it's still going and it's actually a great event to be a part of. They really understand the concept of bringing the classes together and make it a fun weekend, full of kids who are racing on their own little race course, SUP, Raceboard - you name it. It's a very long prize giving too - so many classes and speeches and in Japan, as a guest - you are on stage at least once a day. It's an experience to be a part of and you are being treated like a king. People are amazing, food in Oita is all fish and Sake and if you are into all that (I am), then you will have the most fantastic experience in the Japanese kitchen style and culture.
The event itself goes for 2 days, Saturday and Sunday and both days were with marginal winds and no valid results. We tried to start a race on Saturday but the wind dropped off too quickly and Sunday no chance. Monday morning I went back to Tokyo and the coming weekend I was hosting a slalom clinic 1 hour out of Tokyo. Didn't actually realize how big windsurfing was in Japan before I got up to the place where all the windsurfing was happening. There are 150 Windsurfing shops in Japan and its like there is a Windsurfing School on every corner and you see old Windsurf boards stored everywhere - great to see!
I was staying with the owner of TEARS windsurfing shop, he was the guy organizing the clinic: I had a great time there and Tokyo is pretty full on. Every night there is something happening and we had quite a few "Tokyo nights" which I can't go into details about, more than; Tokyo is full power 24-7, It never stops and it's a great scene to go an explore".
I had some good days, shooting pictures for the Japanese Magazine - Hi-Wind, but also had a chance to race with the Japanese sailors. It was great and one of the days nearly 200 people where blasting on the water - not a something you see everyday. However winter was coming and it was not warm and had to borrow a Japanese wetsuit one day - took me half a day to get into it and nearly never got out.
Text by Jesper Vesterstrom