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By Andrea Swayne
Kei Kobayashi, 15, became a national champion, Oct. 25 at the Rip Curl GromSearch National Final at Upper Trestles when his inspired skills propelled him to the top of the Boys 16U division. Kei faced 15 of the best surfers in his age group—from California, the East Coast, Barbados and Hawaii, all top qualifiers from their regions—to win the title, $500 and a trip to the International Rip Curl GromSearch Final set for early 2015 at an undisclosed location.
“I am super happy to take this win at Uppers, at my home spot,” Kei said. “I am super stoked because last year I let it slip through my fingers in the last few minutes of the final and this year I really wanted to win. I am so thankful for everything. I can’t thank my sponsors and my parents enough for the support.”
Kei said that along with his own local knowledge, Uppers is one of his dad’s favorite spots and he offered great advice.
“My dad surfs there all the time and he told me where to sit out there,” Kei said. “I can’t wait to surf wherever the international contest is. I just want to get good waves!”
Kei, a sophomore at San Clemente High School, is a valued member of his surf team. He is also a top competitor in NSSA, WSA, Surfing America Prime and a member of the Surfing America USA team. In the ASP Men’s Junior Tour, Kei is ranked No. 18 in North America.
Next up, Kei will travel in November to Barbados for an ASP Pro Junior event. Already a deft aerialist, Kei continues to improve along his quest toward a professional surfing career and it seems there is no limit to his high-flying potential.