For most people surfing in Japan doesn't sound to familiar, but when you take a look closer, surfing in the region of Chiba and the islands of Okinawa are an obvious part of the local culture as well as tourism. Especially in the southern islands chain of Okinawa you can experience tropical waters, dramatic typhoon swells and reef breaks all the year, with the right knowledge or a good guidance.
But let's take a look back in history: When World War II broke out in the Pacific in 1941, Okinawa was the tragic place of the only ground battle in Japan, resulting in the deaths of a quarter of the island's population. In the postwar period, Okinawa was placed under U.S. administration for 27 years, until its reversion to Japanese control on May 15, 1972.
Although Okinawa regained its status as a Japanese prefecture, there remain a number of U.S. military bases throughout the main island, which has created a mix of white american dudes and dark-skinned Okinawian locals in the streets.
Okinawa places a particular emphasis on tourism, especially Japanese tourism and many other surrounding countries. With its warm weather, stunning beaches and unique culture, the island is rapidly growing in popularity as a tourist destination.
Around the main island, mostly sharp coral reef breaks can be found – and when it’s on – they are definitely not for novices, but a few places can be found just right for beginners.
On top of it, with the constant tropical climate, surfers can enjoy warm water most of the year. The main island of Naha is a good place to start, but a trip to one of the many beautiful surrounding islands in the area is definitely an unforgettable experience.
Today we sit down with Danny Melhado, owner of Happy Surfing Okinawa Surfschool and Guesthouse and former top 50 pro surfer for an interview and gain some local insights on the topic.
We ourselves had the pleasure to stay at Dannys House for some days and could experience his lovely humor, the professional surf guidance and some beautiful spots around the island.
1) Hi Danny, thank you for taking your time. What brought you to Okinawa and what keeps you here?
"I came to Okinawa 12 years ago as a professional surfer doing a story on surfing in Okinawa for one of the Japanese Surfing Magazines. We scored epic waves , met wonderful people, and had delicious foods. At the time I was teaching surfing in Hawaii and I thought it would be a great place to set up a small surfing school and guest house. I choose to live by some of my favorite waves for both hollow short boarding as well as great long board waves for surfing school."
2) Whats your favorite spot here in Okinawa and why? How would you describe the general vibe of the locals?
"Well, I live very close to my favorite spot. But, the winds, tides and swells change daily in Okinawa and there are spots all around the island so you have to be mobile and have very good local intel to get good waves on a daily basis. The local crew have always been wonderful to me and my guests. Just come with respect like any place your a visitor in."
3) What is your recommendation for people looking to make their first steps on surfing?
"We have courses to work with people wether it is there very first time surfing to advanced level and even pros who come and wanna score the typhoon swells or winter waves. I recommend long boarding for those getting started to stay safe and maximize the fun in smaller safe conditions."
4) Can you name a local food speciality and where to get it?
"Yes! I love Okinawa soba and there are so many good shops around the island. But I love Komaya soba here near my guest house."
5) What does a perfect day in Okinawa look like and how does it end?
"Sometimes everyday feels perfect. I mean we are on a beautiful island and can surf everyday! But morning coffee, a power breakfast, a check of the tides, swell and wind forecast, either getting tubed on my short board or session with customers in great long board waves, end the day with Yakiniku or brick oven pizza at out guest house we make sometimes and some cold beers as we check the photos from the day that end up on our daily wave report on our website happysurfingokinawa.com.
I hope that gives you guys a bit of insight to Okinawa and we look forward to welcoming and surfing with you! Happy surfing!"
Thank you so much, Danny - happy surfing!
Go checkout Happy Surfing Okinawa here: