‘Shrimpy would go’* and Shrimpy keeps going, stealing the limelight from SUP veterans at some of the most iconic SUP racing events both in the US and Europe. Shuri Araki aka Shrimpy from Okinawa, Japan, has just turned sixteen but his remarkable and consistent performance has already ranked him among the top pro athletes in the SUP world.
Photo by Laura Glantz Photography & Design
In the run up to Santa Monica, the US flagship stop of the APP World Championship Tour, taking place on 24 June 2022, TotalSUP caught up with the SUP sensation and his dad and Coach, Takuji Araki, to chat about competing in the APP World Tour and putting the work in to achieve those pro SUP dreams.
“I would like to support Shuri as much as much as I can. He is just very happy to be with world’s best and he wants to race and see a lot of outside. Since he was baby, he’s been growing up in little fishing village in Okinawa and now he’s just starting to explore the world,” said Takuji Araki / Photo by Georgia Schofield
Hi Shuri, welcome to TotalSUP! Whoa, what an amazing start of the racing season! Massive congratulations on your achievements! Let’s start from the beginning… How did you get into the sport of stand-up paddleboarding?
For me, from the beginning SUP has been more of a lifestyle than a sport.I was throwing fish nets from the SUP board and catching little reef fish. Our house is right on the beach and there is lots of fish around. My eight-year old sister is now playing with the same fish net and tandem surf with my father. My favourite SUP discipline is downwinding and I love foiling too. I started downwinding with my father when I was eight and loved it right away.
Okinawa is located southwest of Japan and is warm and tropical all year so there are lots of downwind spots. I do more than 100 days of downwind paddling per year by either SUP or foil.I think downwinding paddling helps my balance and agility, and it is always so much FUN. Sometimes it’s dangerous, but when I stand-up or fly, I can see the most beautiful ocean view!
Photo by Georgia Schofield
What’s the SUP racing scene and the SUP community like in Okinawa?
My fishing family has been organising SUP races (mainly downwind) for the last 10 years. They are all volunteers. When I was little, I was following all my father’s friends and now I have become one of the fastest paddlers in this community. It’s always a competitive but also a fun race.
Who inspires you in the world of stand-up paddleboarding?
Kai Lenny, Casper Steinfath, Connor Baxter, Michael Booth, Zane Kekoa Schweitzer, Titouan Puyo, Daniel Hasulyo … They are all my heroes. When I was seven, I went to watch the APP World Tour in Japan. It has then become my dream to race with them and it finally became real.
Photo by Tony Morin / Credit @ Hendy Street – SUP Carolina Cup 2022
How do you prepare for SUP racing competitions?
My father, Takuji Araki, is my Coach and I paddle beside him everyday. He completed Molokai2Oahu paddle race thirty five times and he knows how to prepare for any type of race. I’ve kept writing in my notes every detail that me and my father discussed together.
It must be hard to juggle school, training and time you’d like to spend with your friends. How do you stay motivated to train and compete?
I live in a very isolated fishing village in Okinawa. There the ocean, mountains and vegetable fields, but not many friends live near my home, so my two sisters and parents are my best friends. I just graduated from Junior High last March and started online learning. For the past nine years, I had to attend school daily by Japanese law, but now I finally have more free time and I can travel overseas more often. I grew up in a small village so I would like to see the world. My biggest motivation is to be on the start line with all my heroes. I respect them so much. I want to travel and race, just like them my whole life.
Photo by Laura Glantz Photography & Design
Your 3 top tips for young, aspiring SUP racers?
One… Follow the dream. I have been following my dream since I was little, and I will be forever.
Two… Relax. I have been practicing paddling without using too much power. I always try to be relaxed whenever I’m in the water.
Three… Be thankful for what you have. I thank my family and my island nature. I couldn’t enjoy paddling without them. I won’t be able to travel without them. I think thanksgiving is everything for everyone.
Photo by Georgia Schofield
What’s your board set up?
I use NSP for any distance racing (I used it for Carolina Cup) and Infinity’s Blackfish for surf and sprints. I also use Starboard Ace pintail especially for downwind racing. I think they are all different and I love all of them so much – I just love to play and feel different board shapes in different water conditions.
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