If you've met Aaron of Elevated Surfcraft there's a good chance it was outside or inside of his little red 1978 Chevy school bus. The first time I ever saw that bus I was headed west to the Oregon coast, the bus was headed east to Mt. Hood with a stack of surfboards on the roof. Eventually Aaron and myself found ourselves in the same lineup and it was an instant friendship kindled by comradery and a love for the shapes of waves, froze and liquid.
Aaron left me with one of his snowboards and the open invitation to join him in Japan that January. I declined twice for the usual reasons: work, this, that, the other. The adage of "third times the charm" rang true in the form of a late night text from Aaron: "Are you coming to Japan?"
I thought about saying no again. Then I thought about saying yes.
Words by Nate Duffy
All photos courtesy of Keegan Rice
Quiver junky and the man behind Elevated Surfcraft, Aaron Lebowitz.
You know that feeling you get as a kid when you wake up to snow on the ground? Seeing Hokkaido from the air gives you the same nostalgia but 10x better.
Its a 10 hour flight to Tokyo, then a short connecting flight to Sapporo. From Sapporo you can catch any number of shuttle services to Furano, a quiet, sleepy little town nestled in the picturesque snow covered foothills of Hokkaido. Furano's ski area was socked in and it was dumping so we headed out into the night for some groomer surfing and got our first taste of "japow"
We thought Furano was a small ski area. We were wrong and absolutely blown away by the amount of terrain once we started exploring the mountain. Japow has the tendency to create excessive white room experiences, Above: Aaron exiting the cloud somewhere in the pit of Furano.
Alex trimming through Furano powder
Japan has it all, from the tallest northern peak of Asahidake' and its surrounding blanket of endless powder to the long winding groomers of Tomamu. Aaron showing some locals a thing or two about style above, below Noah and Aaron surfing trees in Rusutsu.
Zen and the art of turning
Aaron burning holes in his Kinco mitts, Furnao
Issac on the rail of the Red Tail Hawk, Rusutsu
Asahidake is a powder playground, one tram gives you access to the an incredible amount of untouched snow and makes easy access for the surrounding summit area of the volcano. A short boot pack uphill from the top of the gondola and fumaroles billow massive plumes of sulfur steam sky high. After almost drowning in literally bottomless pow we would hit the local onsen, a hot spring fueled by water heated by the steam we had seen rising on the volcano. Ride, soak, sake', repeat.
Shawna digging deep in Rusutsu
Aaron laying into a cutback on the Trew X Elevated Powfish
Buried chairs at Rusutsu, classic Japan
Kyle taking his chances in the deeps of Asahidake'
Issac buried in a frozen wedge
What makes an epic trip to Japan? There's alot that goes into a trip like this, beyond all the usual logistics one of the most important elements is your crew! If Japan is on your bucket list I highly recommend you check that one off sooner rather than later.
Check out the collaborative Trew X Elevated Powfish jacket! Designed for elevating surf potential and maximizing protection from the winter elements