Riders switching sponsors isn't necessarily news, but when it's a rider of Kazuhiro Kokubo's stature -- and the move is from Burton, the largest company in snowboarding, to CAPiTA, a far more rootsy brand -- it is. Japan's Kokubo is a two-time Olympian and X Games medalist who most notably won the U.S. Open halfpipe back-to-back in 2010 and '11, with the more recent title occurring the day after the tsunami wreaked havoc in his homeland. Kokubo's inimitable style and unique choice of tricks have made him a fan fave since his early teens and he is Japan's biggest snowboarding export by far.
"For both Kazu and I it was a really scary decision to leave Burton," explains Kazu's agent, Carl Harris. "On one hand, it was security and familiarity and the quality of the product was never in doubt. On the other hand, that is all Kazu has known since he was seven. I think at some point you want to see what the world has to offer, make some decisions on your own, good or bad… Kazu had a list of companies he liked from a marketing and image perspective, but at the end of the day, if the product doesn't work, it just doesn't matter. He's always been a fan of CAPiTA and once he felt that the product was as good as anything he's ridden in the past, he pulled the trigger."
It's no surprise that CAPiTA, based in Seattle, Wash., would want to sign Kokubo -- everybody pretty much loves the guy's riding -- yet the core company has tended toward more home-grown heroes like Scott Stevens and Dan Brissein the past.
"We're a close-knit group," says CAPiTA President Blue Montgomery, a former pro snowboarder himself. "We have an exceptional team from both the perspective of their ability on a snowboard and who they are as people, and Kazu fits that description. He's a pure snowboarder, throwback in his approach. He's equal parts humble, soulful, stylish, and completely bada--. I never wanted a team of clones... I don't need to pay eight dudes to look and ride and act exactly alike. I'm proud that they are all different people, from different places, with different riding styles and outlooks on life..."
The "sleepy samurai" himself might be known for going huge, but regarding his move to a much smaller company, Kokubo was so excited that he forgot this is a family-friendly web site: "F--- YEAH! I'm on CAPiTA! I don't know what else to say. It is kind of like a dream and then I just smile and say f--- yeah."