How did you come to know of KIALOA and how did you team up – what was the evolution of this relationship?
I started paddling in 2008 and went to Hawaii to paddle with some friends from Japan. My dad knew Jim (Foti) and he let us paddle his OC1’s out of his back yard every day. That was my first paddling experience in Hawaii and the first time I saw a Kialoa paddle. Since then, I’d go to Hawaii for OC1 and OC6 races and would always see the paddles being used by guys that I looked up to. I took up SUP in 2013 and finally had the chance to meet Dave. Kialoa has helped my paddling every day since.
What does being a steward of the KIALOA brand mean to you?
It is a great honor since Kialoa is a brand with so much history. “Together on the Water” sums it up for me. It’s all about being on the water or competing with your friends and sharing the love for paddling with as many people as I can.
What are some of your favorite things to do?
I participate mostly in SUP races but I still love to paddle OC1 and OC6 with my friends.
What is your favorite food?
I love Sushi. Typical for a Japanese person.
What is your favorite restaurant in Japan, Hawaii & Bend, OR?
In Japan, I eat at this local restaurant called Sankai-tei every week. I went to The Pig and the Lady in China Town on Oahu my last trip and that was amazing. In Bend, the food Meg and Dave dishes out in the kitchen are my favorite.
What music are you listening to these days?
My brother is a musician so I listen to a lot of his music these days. Check out Michael Kaneko.
Favorite place to visit?
Maui. Maliko is addicting.
How did you get started in Paddle sports?
My dad was always a paddler and when we moved back to Japan from California, the surf lineup was crowded so I took up my dad’s offer to paddle. Been hooked ever since!
What is your pre-race meal?
I try to have a light meal before races. Mostly rice balls (musubi).
What do you like to eat/drink after paddling?
Always like a cold beer after a race with some pupus. If it’s training, protein and some rice balls come before the beer.
Proudest paddling moment?
My first time across the Kaiwi Channel with my club Ocean Outrigger Canoe Club from Japan. We did not know what we were getting ourselves into but crossed it. Solo crossings are awesome, but nothing beats the hard work you put in together and that feeling of reaching Oahu with all your friends.
What was your scariest paddling experience?
Scariest paddling experience was the Battle of the Paddle at Salt Creek in 2014. It was my first surf race and the waves were solid. Was so happy to have made it out alive and to make the finals that day.
Tell us a little about how you train for paddling races?
I have a pretty strict training regimen. Usually paddle and train 2 times a day, 6 days a week.
Where is your favorite place to paddle?
I love paddling at home here in Hayama but nothing beats the Hawaiian waters.
Any paddlers you look up to?
My dad was the first guy that I looked up to. It took me a while to beat him! I have a lot of other people but the guys that paddle outrigger and SUP like Danny Ching, Travis Grant and Georges Cronsteadt are my favorite guys. Not only are they great paddlers, they are all nice guys.
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in Irvine, CA. Close enough to the beach and just a real nice neighborhood.
As a child did you have pets?
Our family has an English Cocker named Kuuipo. He is 11 now but still runs around like a puppy.
What are some of the crazy fads you and your friends went through?
Not too crazy but I was into bleaching my hair blonde in my highschool days.
What were some things that you and your friends did as kids?
I played soccer every day. Also was into skateboarding, surfing and hanging out at the pool.
What did you get in trouble for most when you were young?
Eating too much junk food. My parents hated that.
What did you do for fun as a child? Played soccer.
Something you want out of life?
I want to make the most out of the opportunities that come to me. No real need for fame or luxury but just a happy life with the people I love. If I can keep staying on the water, then that would be great too.
What are some qualities that you value in a person?
Honesty and hard work.
What inspires you to do ‘good’ in the world?
My wife and all the people that have supported me throughout my life.
Must be finishing top 10 (8th) in my first M2O this year. It got me hungry for next year!
If you could re-experience one thing in your life, what would it be?
I’d love to go back to my high school days. Wish I started paddling back then.
What is something you’re really proud of and why?
I am proud of the life I live right now. Being able to paddle every day, travel to races and meet new people. Of course none of this would be possible without all the people that support me.
What are some goals you’re still trying to accomplish?
Try to be the best paddler I can be. I still feel like I have room for lots of improvement.
Who are your heroes?
All those crazy fast Tahitian paddlers.
Tell us a little about how you train for paddling races?
I try to train race specific. If I am training for Molokai, my focus is on long paddles. If I am training for surf racing or sprint racing, I focus on in and out of the surf, beach starts and buoy turns.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words? Balanced, Sociable, Respectful.
What time of day do you like best and why?
I like sunset time. My favorite time of day to paddle.
If you were an animal, what would you be?
I would be a dog. Get excited over any kind of food.
Would you rather be able to fly or to breathe under water?
I’d take flying any day. Imagine the possibilities!
Any nicknames you go by?
My real name is Kenichiro so Kenny is my nickname.