Surfing in central Tokyo is a thing thanks to this rapid wave

WavePoolMag recently toured through Japan to scope out the mechanically generated wave scene in the land of the rising sun. We discovered a thriving surf culture not only along the coast but also within the world’s largest city, Tokyo. Most urban surfers travel out to the coast at Chiba or Shonan or make the trip to the Surf Stadium wave pool in Shizunami. But for everyday Tokyo surfers – be they salaryman or hipster barista – the standing wave at citywave Tokyo offers a place to get wet. Currently, the facility is relocating from Oimachi to Sakaimachi with an eye on reopening in spring 2023. We spoke with Operations Manager Yoshimi Ayabe to find out more about Tokyo’s favorite standing wave.

There are a lot of surfers in Tokyo, which to some, seems an unlikely place for surf stoke.
Japan has quite a long history of surfing. The country is not far from the birthplace of surfing, Hawaii. Japan has its own, quite a long coast line which is exposed to swell. Some local athletes have been on tour with the World Surf League for some time now. The interest in surfing is exceptionally high in Tokyo because the city is full of young people, who have a great interest in upcoming sports. Many internationals come here to study and share Western Culture trends and interests which has led to even more vibrancy in the surfing industry. Also, I think a big part of why the interest has risen so much in the past few years, is the Olympic Games of 2020 here in Tokyo, where surfing was a medal sport for the very first time.

Were Tokyo surfers excited about the opening of citywave Tokyo and have you been busy?
Absolutely! We had tons of messages prior to opening the venue with questions about the citywave itself and how we were going to operate. People are not only interested in the sport, but also show an interest in the unique technology of citywave and how it makes surfing accessible. Even the sports minister of Japan came to surf at the opening event. By now, there is an entire community around citywave Tokyo, a sort of fan club if you like.

What’s the profile of the average surfer who visits citywave Tokyo?
The average customer here in Tokyo is usually between 20 and 30 years old, lives a sporty lifestyle, is a fan of surfing and tries to live the surfer lifestyle as much as possible. Groups have formed, who meet up every week after work to go surfing together and have a good time, families bring their children from all over the country on the weekends and some even bring a coach to practice professionally. But there really is no “average customer” now that I think about it. We have many repeating customers, who all come for different reasons. Some are competitive and work hard on a specific trick or skill. Some come to enjoy a drink with their friends and to be part of the lifestyle by just watching the action. Others see surfing as a very efficient workout, that brings them lots of joy. One thing all customers have in common though is that they all leave the place smiling.

When the country’s Minister of Sport shows up at your local spot, it’s kind of a big deal.

Are some times of the week busier than others?
The weekends are usually the busiest since people have more time for activities. Students and young adults who don’t have to go to university or school and most people are not working on the weekends. Weather also plays a role in bookings. Sunny times always bring many first time customers and spectators, while not so good weather often brings the pros who want to practice intensely with fewer people watching. We even have people lining up to surf during heavy snow. So, besides the weekends and holidays, bookings are quite consistent throughout the week.

You’ve recently announced a move of locations. Why is this?
When we first opened citywave Tokyo, we knew we could only use the location for four years. The area was designated for skyscrapers, which will be under construction soon. Back then the area was used as the Sporu Oimachi Sports – Center, a place to practice and watch various sports to promote the local Olympic Games of 2020. Sports, which had their debut at the Olympic Games, (surfing for example) were introduced here and presented to the press. We wouldn’t know just how much people were going to love surfing here and how much they would enjoy riding the wave here, so the goal was to do four years at Sporu Oimachi and see how it goes from there. Time went by fast and the demand to come surf is higher now than ever. If we wanted to continue to operate, we needed a new location. Luckily, we found a great new place, which we optimized according to our experiences over the past few years.

Do you plan to expand to open more waves in Tokyo?
We would love more waves in Tokyo and Japan in general. Right know we need to focus on relocating and then reopening our current wave. Yet, I really hope we can continue and extend our work with citywave, the German engineering company behind the unique technology, to install many more waves in the future. Some projects are in planning stage, so you will hear from us soon.