(Empty beach, the ideal place to learn.)
As Japan rapidly becomes recognized as a surf destination, new arrivals come not only to work, but with hopes of learning to ride waves. For those unacquainted with the ways of the ocean, surfing presents a formidable challenge. English instruction is hard to find, but thanks to an enterprising Aussie surfer in Shikoku, help is on the way.
The Hata Surf Dojo is owned and operated by Bruce Dillon, an avid surfer originally from Australian surfing Mecca, the Gold Coast. After instructing in Australia, Bruce decided to open his own school this year in Hata, Kochi Prefecture. A long-term resident of Hata, Bruce’s school has the respect and support of the local community.
The dojo (a Japanese word for “school” often used in martial arts) practices on a long stretch of pristine beach in the town of Ogata. It’s a location sure to please anybody coming from the cramped confines of urban Japan. The beaches’ mellow waves are well-suited for beginners. The ample space means there are no crowded, and potentially dangerous, areas. As the coastline is open to swell from all directions (except north), there is also consistent surf.
(Bruce hard at work)
Kochi is recognized as one of the premier surf locations in Japan. It has numerous picturesque beaches, as well as a quality river mouth and reef breaks for more experienced surfers. The water is warm and the vibes are generally relaxed. If you do decide to join the dojo, beware—a few sessions in the water with Bruce’s infectious surf stoke, and you’re bound to catch the surfing bug!
Hata Surf Dojo （播多サーフ道場）
The people of Kochi have a hardy reputation. They are known for hard drinking and a strong, independent nature. The legendary Ryoma Sakamoto, founder of Japan’s first modern corporation during the Meiji Restoration, exemplifies this character. A visit to Kochi is not complete without a visit to Katsura-hama beach where a towering statue of Sakamoto stands. You can also check out the lively local dance, the Yosakoi, and the gnarly Tosa-ken fighting dogs. (Tosa is the old name for Kochi.) Once your stomach has settled, try Kochi’s specialty, katsuo tataki. This exceptional sashimi dish of seared bonito topped with garlic, ginger, onion and soy sauce is popular and delicious!
Kochi is located in the south of Shikoku. There are bridges connecting Shikoku from Hiroshima, Okayama and Kobe, but the Seto Ohashi Bridge from Okayama has the only railway connection. Kochi is also accessible by ferry from Kawasaki, Osaka and Oita. Ogata Town is a 2 ½ hour drive from Kochi City on Route 56. It takes 1 hour from Kochi to Nishi Ogata Station by train.