Born in Japan, Kenny moved to Irvine, California when he was eight years old and grew up playing soccer and surfing on the weekends. In an earlier time, Kenny’s skills with a soccer ball outshined his ocean going pursuits and led him to compete at the regional and national level through the Olympic Development Program. Benefiting from a favorable scouting report, he returned to Japan to play for a professional soccer team only to have his budding career cut short when an ACL injury put an end to his ambitions on the pitch.
The son of an outrigger paddler, Kenny took to outrigger canoeing as a means to spend time on the water while avoiding the crowded surf lineups commonly found at Japan’s best breaks. It was not long before he found himself training for one of the most prestigious races in the outrigger community – the Molokai Hoe. Like many paddlers before him, Kenny’s OC-6 paddling soon gave way to training on OC-1s. A natural competitor, he began training for and competing in the grueling, annual Molokai to Oahu OC-1 race where he posted a 16th place finish in 2014.
With a solid background in outrigger canoeing, Kenny made the natural transition to SUP in 2013 and has rapidly distinguished himself as Japan’s top paddler, winning the 2014 All Japan SUP Championships earlier this month. Kenny enjoys the view of the water from a SUP, “It is better standing up than sitting down,” he told me, as well as the friendly, inclusive nature of the paddling community around the world.
As a complement to his achievements on the race circuit, in 2014, Kenny founded Kokua SUP, a paddling academy whose mission is to coach and offer clinics for SUP paddlers in Japan. Looking ahead to the coming year, Kenny intends to take part in as many international races as possible and continue competing with the best in the world.
The accomplished 26 year old athlete from Hayama, Japan offered the following tips for his fellow paddlers.
The buddy system
Always paddle with another person, never alone, since anything can happen on the water.
In trying to be a better racer, I think anybody can be the best at paddling. As long as you have the determination and the will to do it, you will keep improving!
Technique is key. Being a smaller guy, I have learned that technique can get you very far in terms of going fast and having a long injury free paddling life.