Resolute surf star Kanoa Igarashi on Paris 2024 ambitions: "The simple, easy answer is to get a gold medal"

Fresh from securing top five world status, the Tokyo 2020 silver medallist is now ready to begin the hunt for his next dream venture: Olympic gold at Paris 2024. First though, he wants to secure a quota spot via the 2022 ISA World Surfing Games in Huntington Beach. 

By Ash Tulloch and Chloe Merrell | Created 16 September 2022.
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Tokyo 2020 Olympic surfing silver medallist Kanoa Igarashi has already made 2022 a year to remember.

During the COVID-19 pandemic the 24-year-old set himself the target of finishing in the top five of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour men's rankings.

It was ambitious, but the dream-chaser thrived off the challenge, making the number his phone background to keep him hungry.

Though Igarashi may have not had the conclusion to the season he might have hoped for after crashing out in the first round of the WSL Finals to Olympic champion Italo Ferreira, the Japanese surfer still had cause to celebrate.

He had achieved his goal of hitting world number five.

“I pretty much built my days around it,” Igarashi reflected in an exclusive interview with Olympics.com in California on the eve of the 2022 ISA World Surfing Games, which are live on Olympic Channel via Olympics.com for free.

“It became reality a couple of weeks ago. I was able to compete at my first world title event and to have the honour of being able to say that I had a shot at becoming world champion.

“It was an honour just to feel that energy and to know that I’m on the right path.”

READ MORE: 2022 ISA World Surfing Games: Preview, schedule, key athletes and how to watch

Kanoa Igarashi: Eyes firmly set on gold at Paris 2024

With one objective ticked off, the Olympic medallist is now turning to his next set of ambitions.

The first of which is getting to Paris 2024 to upgrade on the silver he won on home waves in Tokyo.

“Hopes and ambitions for Paris? The simple, easy answer is to get a gold medal,” Igarashi said about the upcoming Olympic Games. “I was so close to chasing victory in Tokyo that it's fired me up more than ever.”

Riding the familiar waters of Tsurigasaki beach where his father used to surf before emigrating to the United States, the home favourite was just pipped to the gold by Ferriera in a thrilling final.

The outcome initially left Igarashi feeling conflicted about his medal, but with time he learned the value of it. And now the star surfer wants more:

“It was mixed emotions for me in Tokyo. I didn't know how to take a silver medal," said Igarashi. “There was just this high and low of just something I couldn't really control.

“I guess for me, I just have that fire still in me. It's still so fresh. And obviously we’re already talking about qualification for Paris.

"The goal is to win gold and clean up what I wasn’t able to achieve in Tokyo."

HOW TO WATCH: ISA 2022 World Surfing Games live on Olympics.com

Surf family: Keeping up with the Igarashis

Also on Kanoa's dream agenda is supporting his younger brother Keanu Igarashi in his nascent surfing career.

The 19-year-old is currently bidding to get on to the Championship Tour (CT) with the long-term aiming of competing at the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. And the older Igarashi is already looking forward to helping him deliver on his potential:

“I'd love to just see my brother getting closer to his goal of getting on the CT and being in that conversation. And getting him ready to qualify for the 2028 Olympics.

“I want to see his development and that's kind of probably my biggest goal until Paris and hopefully, me doing me, can inspire my brother too. So, I just go do him as well.”

As for what the senior Igarashi thinks about the possibility of the two battling it together in the city they grew up in, the Olympic medallist said that it was a vision he had already shared:

“I think that could be a really cool chance. I told him that the other day. I said, 'Hey, let's push towards that goal.'

“Obviously I have my hands full, but I give as much energy as I possibly can towards my brother to achieve his goals too.”

Kanoa Igarashi poses with his Tokyo 2020 silver medal (left) 
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

With talk of his brother and what he might achieve it isn’t long before Igarashi contemplates what he wants to achieve in the course of his own career.

When it comes to inspiration, the surfer confesses to drawing from several other athletes, including fellow Japanese phenom Naomi Osaka and recent retiree Roger Federer.

On the announcement of the tennis legend’s departure from the sport, Igarashi expressed his swelling sense of admiration for the 41-year-old and how he one day hopes to have a similar impact.

“I mean, he’s such an inspiration; what he's done for the sport. He must be having a nice afternoon with his family and, you know, seeing everyone go crazy about the news.

“If you look at all these people that have a legacy in sport, it's not just about what they do on the court or in the water or on the field. It's about what they do outside and how they give back to the community, how they give back to their family. That's where you, I think, become unique and that's where you're great.

“That would be a huge dream of mine,” Igarashi added on whether he hopes to have a similar legacy.

He could take a small step towards that goal at the 2022 ISA World Surfing Games in California this week, a Paris 2024 Qualifier with an Olympic berth on offer in each of the men's and women's events.

You livestream the competition from Huntington Beach, USA, on Olympic Channel via Olympics.com for free and without subscription.

GO OLYMPIC. GET ALL THIS.

Free live sport events. Unlimited access to series. Unrivalled Olympic news & highlights.