Well travelled: Hiroto Arai’s next stop is Lennox Head today for day one of the Rusty Gromfest, where the Japanese teenage surfer has been seeded number one in his category.
Well travelled: Hiroto Arai’s next stop is Lennox Head today for day one of the Rusty Gromfest, where the Japanese teenage surfer has been seeded number one in his category.

Japanese surfer on way to title

IF SURF contests were won in preparation, Hiroto Arai would be champion of the world.

The 16-year-old Japanese shredder is said to be most meticulous and will need to be at the top of his game to take out the 16s division of the Rusty Gromfest which starts at Lennox Head today.

Arai, who goes simply by “Hiro”, has been seeded number one in his category but expectation doesn’t bother him, as seen by Lennox Head boardshaper Al Emery who discovered Arai on a business trip to Japan three years ago.

Soon after seeing him surf, Emery added the then 14-year-old to his team which also boasts local talent Adam Melling and Stu Kennedy.

“Hiro is like a mini Mick Fanning,” Emery said.

“He is lightning fast and has that confident style about him.

“He is extremely precise, knows where to hit the lip and can bust some airs as well.”

Sounds like the complete package.

Emery said that while his charge was typically quiet and modest, having little knowledge of local surfers allowed him to be supremely confident.

“I ask him how he is going to go and he just says, ‘Yes, I’ll win’,” Emery said.

“I ask him will he beat this guy or that guy, and he just says, ‘Yes, I will’.”

And most often he is right.

Last year, as a 15-year-old, Arai contested the ISA World Junior titles in New Zealand where he finished fourth against older surfers.

And recently his performances landed him a deal with surfwear giant Rip Curl. Emery puts Arai up at his Lennox home when he comes to Australia – two or three times a year – and gets a first-hand look at how the youngster operates.

“Hiro is so prepared and organised, especially compared with the Aussie kids,” he said.

“He is extremely disciplined, he has yoga down pat, he brings his own alarm clock so he is always on time, and he even has a container for his wax.”

The newest addition to Emery’s team even blogs for his legion of fans back home.

His hometown, Yokohama, is more than an hour from the surf but apparently all the locals know who he is.

“We were over in Japan and heading to the beach and there’s people everywhere waving at us,” Emery said.

“I asked Hiro what was going on and he explained that he had posted our plans on his blog and everyone had come out to see him.

“He is like a little superstar over there.”

Against a host of local kids Arai may not be the crowd favourite this weekend, but that won’t matter much if he beats them all to the title.



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