By Kenji Iwaasa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer The sport of surfing is riding higher and higher as it prepares to make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games. Facilities and equipment that enable surfers to enjoy the sensation of catching a wave without having to go to a beach are becoming popular among people, irrespective of their surfing experience.
Fun for all
On a weekday night in early June, nine men and women who are surfing buddies rode artificial waves about one meter high and did turns comfortably at the artificial surfing facility Citywave Tokyo in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo.
“I can ride the waves many times. It’s fun,” one said. Another said, “The facility is located in the city, so it’s convenient.”
The facility opened in August last year in the Sporu Shinagawa Oimachi sports facility.
Citywave Tokyo runs water into a pool with an uneven floor that enables people to enjoy the feeling of catching waves. Visitors can rent surfboards and wet suits, and those without surfing experience can safely enjoy the sport using assistive bars.
The fee is ¥6,200 for 50 minutes and the facility is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (to 9 p.m. on Sundays). It is crowded with workers after office hours on weekdays and with families on weekends. The facility is also visited by many tourists from overseas. It is so popular that it is 80 percent booked through August.
According to the Sasakawa Sports Foundation, the estimated number of people enjoying surfing at least once a year had been on a downtrend over the past few years, but the figure has begun increasing recently, with 730,000 people having surfed at least once a year in 2018.
According to one surfer, however, “Popular beaches in Kanagawa, Chiba and other prefectures in the Tokyo metropolitan area are so crowded on weekends that I can ride only a few waves for a short time.” Amid these circumstances, facilities and equipment that allow people to easily enjoy the feeling of surfing on land have been attracting attention.
Surf skateboards are popular among a wide range of generations. Unlike ordinary skateboards, the front wheel axles sway as a user shifts their body weight, so they can do winding turns that mimic the sensation of riding waves. The wide board and large tires give users a feeling of stability. Boards from U.S., Japanese and other makers are available in Japan.
According to the sole import agent for U.S. maker Carver, the surf skateboard was developed in the late 1990s for surfers who wanted to practice surfing on land.
The Murasaki Sports Queen’s Square Yokohama store in Yokohama sells various makers’ surf skateboards for ¥20,000 to ¥40,000. Customers can try them out freely. According to 30-year-old staffer Masahito Miyagi, children, women and elderly people in their 70s who have never surfed buy them and practice at skateboard parks.
“Even beginners can ride them relatively easily,” Miyagi said.
Surf fit, an exercise that originated in the United States, is also popular among women in their 20s and 30s. A surfboard fixed to three balance balls with a rubber strap is used, helping to improve core strength while enjoying movements specific to surfing, such as lying down and paddling on a surfboard, and taking off, which describes the action of a surfer moving into a standing position on a surfboard before catching a wave.
Sapporo-based Life Create, which operates exercise studios in four locations including Tokyo and Osaka, said it would be opening a new studio in the near future.
Yasutaka Suzuki, an editor of Surfin’ Life magazine said, “The refreshing and exhilarating feeling, as well as the convenience that allows people to practice regularly, are likely attractive to people with and without experience, and that’s why such facilities and equipment are becoming popular.”Speech