Interview // Yusuke Hanai

Photo by Tom Morin

Photo by Tom Morin

中文 | 日本語

Sometimes you need to just follow your dreams and that’s what Yusuke Hanai did. Being from Japan and a very conservative culture, his parents didn’t want him to go to art school, so he started working at a bar, saved money and went out to San Francisco to attend art school. Living in San Francisco during his time there were artists, beatniks, hippies and other counter-cultured people whom he met and help influenced him. His passion is art and surfing and now his art is known worldwide, and it all came from just pursuing his passion and love of art.

Thank you Yusuke for taking the time to do an interview and I can’t wait to see your show here in Taipei!

Who are you and where are you currently right now?

My name is Yusuke Hanai. Illustrator from Japan.

When did you start surfing and at what point did you realize you would be surfing for the rest of your life?

I started surfing when I was in high school. I surfed at my local reef break. And I will keep surfing from that point on for the rest of my life.

You grew up in Japan, as for many Asian cultures, studying is very important and parents push their children to study hard, get good grades, go to good schools and get a good job. What was it like growing up in your household and were your parents very supportive of your liking to surfing?

I used to play soccer. But When I was in my first year of high school, I quit and started smoking and surfing. My parents did not allow me to go to art school. So I started working at bar, I saved money by myself and went to study art in San Francisco.

When did you start getting into art?

I have asthma, so I always doodle in my house when I was kid. I liked doodling ever since I was a kid. And that is one of the things I am good at and can have conversations to people about.

You love to draw cartoon surfing characters. Where do you get your influences in your art?

Rick Griffin. His surf cartoon in MURPHY.

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be an artist and that you could make a living doing art?

I don’t know actually. I used to work in a web design company. I was working full time at the company and made art pieces after work. So, little by little.

There are more and more artists that surf and surfers that are artists here in Taiwan.  What advice do you have for them to keep pursuing their dreams of becoming an artist?

Think about what people want you to do. Think about what you can do to make people happy. Then find what you want to do.

I read that you went to art school in San Francisco but couldn’t finish because of your dad had leukemia. I wanted to ask you about San Francisco and the surf/art scene there and if you could tell us why you love that city?

That was more than 10 years ago. I don’t like the word “SURF ART” I don’t like to be categorized. I don’t paint only ABOUT surfing. I like people, especially weird people. Weird people are interesting and such great characters. And there are so many of those types of people in surfing. Of course I love surfing so sometimes I like to draw surfers. For me SF is not about surf. I like the people, music, and culture from there.
Lately there are so many IT people living in SF and rent is getting crazy high. That means it’s getting harder and harder to survive as an artist living there. I like the culture from SF. Like beatniks, hippies, artist from beautiful losers. I listen to The Grateful Dead a lot. These things made me to go SF. SF is always center of counter culture. But not now, maybe…

You recently had a show in California with Hi-Dutch. What’s your relationship with Hi-Dutch and how did you get the show started? How the trip and the show?

That show was not just me and Hi-Dutch. It was a 4 artists group show. There were Rich Jacobs, Tim Kerr, Hi-Dutch and myself. I met hi-dutch at the first Greenroom Festival, which is big music festival related to the surf scene. Hi-Dutch is super kind and nice guy. He is also very talented. If you’ve never seen his art, you should Google his name.

How did you meet Japanese surf director? Yuji Watanabe? He came out to Taiwan to film and he wants to bring more art/surf/music here in Taiwan!

I met him at an art show in Tokyo. I think it was Andy Davis, Jeff Canham and Tyler Warrens. He knows them and I also know them as well. So through mutual friends we conntect.

Photo by Yasuma Miura

Photo by Yasuma Miura

Photo by Yasuma Miura

Photo by Yasuma Miura

Photo by Yasuma Miura

Photo by Yasuma Miura

Your going to have a show here in Taiwan with Beams. Will this be your first show here in Taiwan?


Have you heard anything about the surfing here in Taiwan?

I heard waves on the east coast are amazing. There are many good lefts right? I’m goofy. So I was dreaming. But this time I’m only staying for 3 days. So it’s too short to go to east side. My fiend told me HMB is good.

Who are some of the people you met through surfing and art?

A lot.

Surfing and art have taken you to many places around the world. Is there anywhere in particular that stands out and why?

I liked pretty much everywhere I have been so far. I like to travel, I like new experiences. So I can’t really say where is the best. I could say my local reef break is the best.

When you go on a trip abroad, what do you usually prepare in your baggage?

T-shirt, under wear, towel and wetsuits.

If you could create a cartoon surfing character to represent you and your surfing style, what would it be like?

Maybe, weird long hair stoned hippie surfer who rides a pig or fish, gets kicked out from main peak by a surfer who wears long stupid trunks and rides a thruster.

Can you tell us your current surfboard quiver and which board you have been riding the most recently?

Skip Frye single fin egg 5.9 1977

Tyler warren “Bar of Soap” 5.0

Eric Walden twin-fin fish 5.9

Ole “Bumble Bee” 10ft

I think I ride the “Bar of soap” a lot. But depends on the wave

If you could give the 18 year old you some advice what would it be?

Nothing. Just enjoy your life.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Now I’m working on a collaboration work for Vans. It will be released 2016 spring summer season. Please check it out next February. Also working with Nixon. It will be released next January.

Any last words for the Taiwanese reading this interview?

Please come to my art show at Beams Taipei. Opening party will be August 22nd. I will be there then.

Hope to see you then.


「Oh Well – Yusuke Hanai Art Exhibition」

Art by Yusuke Hanai

Art by Yusuke Hanai

Art by Yusuke Hanai

Art by Yusuke Hanai

Art by Yusuke Hanai

Art by Yusuke Hanai

Links: | Instagram@hanaiyusuke


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