PLACEMENT featuring M03

Max Houtzager

PHOTOS: Rob Schanz, Amado Stachenfeld, Max Houtzager

VIDEO: Amado Stachenfeld

LOCATION: Hakuba, Japan and Northern California

A mentor of mine once told me that reading the air, as they say in Japanese, is not enough.

In order to make any sort of impact no matter how small, you must also be able to ‘create the air’. When I first met Ryosuke Kenmochi, otherwise known as M03, I could sense he had a certain capability like this, but I had no idea what exactly it was.
‘Ken’ means sword, and mochi means to hold. M03, coming from samurai lineage, had ancestors that held swords but without his ‘Ken’ he is just ‘Mr. Mo’ (Mo-San). He has let go of his sword but now has the ability to grasp much more.
In Shonan’s small Hiratsuka he is known as the informal co-mayor, which was immediately obvious after briefly watching his interactions with the local kids and seniors near his store.
Surfing with M03 in Hiratsuka, I felt a unique sense of community that is rare at any kind of break.
It didn’t feel localized at all, yet there was a clear feeling of camaraderie in the air that seemed to come from M03’s presence.
Furthermore, the waves looked like his playground.
When he went on the inside he found rampy sections and closeout barrels, and when he paddled further out he was greeted by wide open faces that peeled beautifully.
It seemed special but I thought nothing of it because Hiratsuka is obviously his local spot. That’s just how it works.
Half a year after our first encounter, he told me he wanted to experience the same low pressure system in Japan and California, first on snow, and then in northwest swell that Northern California is famous for in winter time.
I was immediately on board.
I thought we would embark on a journey in hopes of trying to see how the same weather system would express itself differently in Japan and in California, how it is reflected in the local culture- the vibe of the people, their style of riding.
The goal was to discover, amongst these different backdrops, how would M03 learn about himself, about each specific environment, and about the connection between it all. I thought about the space and expression of weather, nature, and people, but I was completely forgetting about one entire indispensable dimension, time / timing.

We did not have the flexibility to wait for a storm and book the trip to match it. We just hoped that a few nights in Hakuba for snow and just under a week in California would be enough for some kind of low pressure to grace us with fresh snow and clean surf.
I didn’t think much of this aspect of our trip. In Hakuba it rained on the first day and was supposed to sprinkle just a few inches the next.
We found ourselves with 2 feet of fresh powder that was easily waist deep in some areas Tsugaiike’s forests. The Outflow crew guided us to these areas. The day after that we were planning to meet the honshuu based Gentem crew at Happo Banks. Sunshine…
The window we had in California was late March, which was pushing it in terms of receiving proper NW winter swell with no southerly spring winds beginning to hinder any chances of good surf. M03 brought a gun and a 7’6. He was hungry for a powerful Californian tube that he has been dreaming about for years.
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It was only the final session in California, after traveling together in Japan, when I witnessed the moment where I am certain he gained 100% conviction on a perspective he had been exploring for a long time.After checking several spots between Sf and Santa Cruz we finally found a point that might give M03 the tube he was looking for. It was going off. But at the same time some of the meanest local pros paddled out. We watched for an hour. Not a single wave unridden. A lot of turns and beautiful rides but not epic barrels. Finally m03 said he was ready.
He paddled from the south, through the waves and against the current in order to ease his way into the crowd. Once further out a wave came to him immediately. He dropped in perfectly and pulled into the biggest barrel we’d seen that day. All 3 of us, rob, amado, and myself, were in awe.
He did it, and felt something that none of us would understand until reflecting on the entire trip, from japan to california, later on. M03 had learned that aligning your will with the flow of the universe is about ichi, being one and your physical place in time.

Special thanks to Zachary Ostroff for the score and Streamer Coffee Company.