|Can it get any cuter? Airi & Naki - our friends and representatives for Seea in Japan! |
Airi and Naki are two very unique people we are happy and lucky to have met. One of the first Japanese professional surfers to compete in California in the 80's, Funaki Mitsuhide, aka "Naki", has been surfing for over 30 years. With cat-like grace on any size board, Naki's sense of style can only be matched by his beautiful fiancee Airi, a former Japanese news reporter and newcomer to the surfing world. Together, they are an inspiring duo - a true intersection of culture & experience, blending the best of California with Japanese style and flair.
|Naki waxes up his "kook box"- a hollow wooden surfboard modeled after boards from the 1930's|
|Trimming out parallel on a small day at San O|
|Stylish bottom turn on a not-so-small day|
|Naki's is also an excellent water photographer. His shots are coveted by collectors around the globe.|
When did you start surfing, Naki?
I started surfing in Japan when I was 18. I would surf 6 or 7 hours a day back then – even if there was no surf, I would still go out and just paddle! There was no internet then, no surf report, nothing - it was like discovering a new world!
Later on I became a professional surfer in Japan – I moved to the US when I was 28, and was one of the first Japanese surfers to compete on the PSAA circuit. I took competition pretty seriously back then, but through my travels, I began to explore new places and new waves. The spirit of surfing here on the coast of California is very free in comparison to Japan, and eventually, my attitude towards surfing began to change. I learned to surf for myself and be happy, even when things aren’t perfect.
Your name means “smile” in Japanese, right?
Well, “Naki” is my nickname. It’s short for my last name, Funaki, which was easier for most people to say than “Mitsuhide”. I wanted to bring the same sense of joy and freedom I discovered in California back to surfers in Japan, so when I started my company, I named it “Smile Surf”, or “Nikorin Surf” in Japanese. It made perfect sense since “Naki” was already my nickname. Smile - Surf!
So what’s Naki Surf all about?
My purpose is to help others get to know the ocean, and to enjoy happiness through riding waves. I encourage my friends to discover surfing on their own terms – not just when the surf report says “good”.
What is your favorite place in Japan?
Amami Island, for sure. Usually, you go to islands, people can be unfriendly, and have a tendency to be protective of what they have, particularly with waves & surf spots. But everyone in Amami is so open and kind. The waves, food & weather are all very good, and it never seems to get crowded. The ocean is so blue & beautiful - it's a true paradise!
|Just one of over 200 different surf breaks in Naki's favorite paradise, Amami island.|
When did you and Naki meet?
3 years ago. At the time I was living in Japan and was a member of a traditional Japanese surf shop. There were many rules, and Japanese guys don't always make it easy for women to learn to surf, either, so I was very scared to surf! Then I met Naki, and he taught me to go beyond this small way of thinking. He gave me different boards to try, taught me to understand the waves, and showed me a new vision of surfing. Meeting Naki definitely changed my life!
What do you like the best about surfing?
I just love to be in the ocean. I don’t even have to catch any waves - I’m just happy to be there. I feel like I’m cleansing my soul... I need to go there, for my heart!
What is your favorite spot to surf?
I love San O very much. The waves are good, people are so nice. I can feel the history of surfing in the atmosphere there. San Clemente is a small town by the ocean, but really it is a very spiritual spot for surfing - so many artists and legends have lived and surfed here - it's an exciting, original surf town.
What did you think when you first saw SEEA?
I was so excited!! I was always so unhappy with the suits I found before in Japan. Finally suits that look amazing and still stay on - just what I had been looking for and could never find!! That is why I feel the need to tell everyone about Seea - because I know many other Japanese girls feel the same way I do, so I have made it my mission to let them all know!
|Airi in the Seeaside rash tank, coming this June!|
What would you the two of you like out of the your lives in the future?
Airi: Our lives are so fast and busy – so many things come and go. I am a full time student, while Naki is an artist, a surfer, a business owner. We love the freedom our lifestyle provides, but sometimes we would like to unplug from it completely and live more simply –
Naki: I would like to go shoot photos just for me, instead of shooting for an article, or just go score a great day of surf alone, or with friends - no cameras or blogs. A slow life with no wind, that is what I would like...
It's been a real pleasure getting to know Airi & Naki, and we couldn't be more please to be working together. For more information on becoming a Seea dealer in Japan, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.