Deaf owner of surf shop in Gunma Prefecture

SATO Koichi (34) has been managing the surf shop "BARREL SURF" for 15 years in Maebashi City, Gumma Prefecture.

Sato leaves the hometown at 1:00 am with the surfing board on the car. He arrives in the beach in Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture after a five-hour-long drive. The local surfers are surprised to see his number plate. "Did you come from Gunma Prefecture that far away?" The prefecture is surrounded by hills and mountains.

He was encouraged by one of his acquaintances, starting surfing and going abroad to study in Australia for one year at the age of 22.

After returning home, he lived for two years near the sea of Hitachinaka City with his aim at becoming a professional. However, the hard reality crushed his dream, so he gave up at the age of 26.

There was a story around in the city that the North Kanto Road would be connected from Gunma to Ibaraki in the near future, when Sato was about to give up surfing. He thought, "If the sea becomes nearer, the surfing culture will be spread in Gunma". Then the shop was opened in April, 2003 when he was 27 years old.

At that time, there were few surfers and also an instructor for surfers was absent from Gunma Prefecture where the sea did not exist. Manners were occasionally put in question as the beginner from Gunma entered the convenience store along the beach with gritty foots.

Sato established a school that he would enter the sea with the customers, and made an effort to keep a good relationship with the local community, such as cleaned the beach.

After 8 years of the opening Sato's shop, a company employee, ISHIGURO Nobuo (45) and his hard of hearing son Jin (18) who is a vocational school student worked on surfing. Nobuo had wanted to put some confidence in Jin. They kept progressing with Sato's instruction.

Jin won a grand champion in the contest (open class) sponsored by the "Ibaraki Surf Union" in 2009, and is aiming at becoming a professional.

There is a good wave only once in several months even if Nobuo and Jin go to the sea for a long time every weekend. However, they keep going to the beach even on snowy days with their goal; they have a good fellow whom they share with when they come across a good wave that has been dreamed for.

About 50 surfers around the Gunma prefecture gathered in the year-end party at the Barrel Surf shop on December 11, 2010. "The North Kanto Road will open on March 19. We will surely get to the sea in two hours. Why not enjoy surfing more next year?" A loud shout of joy occurred with applause at Sato's greeting.

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