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In March of 2011 a 12-year-old Japanese snowboarder named Ayumu Hirano poached the U.S. Open halfpipe and laid down a run that was so mind blowing people are still talking about it. A little over a year later, Hirano, now 13, showed up as an official invited rider to the Burton High Fives in New Zealand and took first.
What's crazier about the contest is not that he won going 20 feet out of the pipe, and is so good that people are already starting to call him "the rider who is going to beat Shaun White," it's that three of the top five pipe riders at the High Fives were from Japan. One was 2011 Burton Canadian Open champion Kohei Kudo, another was Ryo Aono -- a snowboarder who has made the podium of almost every pipe contest he's entered since he claimed bronze at Winter X Aspen this past January.
There's no question that Japan's snowboarders are on the rise, positioned to take over halfpipe. Don't believe us? Here's two-time U.S. Open winner Kazu Kokubo to tell you all about it.