Keep your eyes on Kazuhiro Kokubo (Kazu), a 23 year-old Japanese pro snowboarder making a name for himself on and off the powder. It takes creativity, speed, andÂ fearlessÂ balls to stand out in the current crowd of pro snowboarders and their jaw-droppingÂ anticsÂ and powdery terrain nuances. Starting young (he began riding with his dad at the young age of 4) and being from Hokkaido, a norther Japanese island famous for it’sÂ freshÂ supply of powder and ski resorts, Kokubo was fortunate to practice boarding in a Â freerider’s paradise. In 2003, Kokubo was the youngest competitor and first Japanese rider to ever grace the U.S. Open podium, where original style is especially revered and rewarded. Â He isÂ joiningÂ the same field with fellow masters of the snow, such as Shaun White, Iouri “Ipod” Podladtchikov, and Ryo Aono (another Japanese pro snowboarder) in the Men’s Super Pipe competition this year’s Winter X Games 16. Keep a look out for dark dreads peeking underneath this pro’s helmet.
Kokubo’s rebelliousÂ spiritÂ in the 2010 Winter Olympics Vancouver was a small testament to what to expect from him – far from typical. He showed up in Vancouver wearing his national uniform with a few personal alterations: un-tucked shirt, lose tie, and sagged pants. This action outraged his home country’sÂ parliamentÂ and the Japan Ski Association to a degree that stirred up an overblown Japanese media debate and controversy surrounding his appearance. However, being withheld from theÂ openingÂ ceremony did not demote his skills. He walked away still a winner. Last year (2011) life became very real for him, having survived a car wreck that could have killed him! Being between his second straight U.S. Open Halfpipe win, Kokubo is counting his blessings with cheating death and running with it to do even more with his blessings than just snowboard. Kokubo and his wife give back to their country through JEARS.org, helping animals in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami disaster. Kazuhiro Kokubo is definitely a guy with style and substance.
Watch this video of an awesome pipe run:
He didn’t podium, but people still paid attention. Many didn’t understand why his posted score wasn’t higher.
Check him out in Burton’s new 2011 film featuring the world’s greatest boarders “Standing Sideways”. Kokubo is known in the mainstrea media as the best-known Japanese rider of all time.