Tomomi ‘Sheesa’ Kuwahara

By 28th February 2011 August 27th, 2013 Uncategorized

THE King of the Hill event in Alaska is one of those Holy Grail events made by snowboarding legends for hard-core enthusiasts. Nick Perata, the first snowboarder to ever ride Alaska, founded the event in 1994 and after the event’s 10-year hiatus, he brought it back to its birthplace Valdez, Alaska in 2010 to see Travis Rice crowned as King. Thrilling, terrifying, big and deep, The King of the Hill event is for dedicated and passionate enthusiasts. Local Niseko Gentem rider Tomomi ‘Sheesa’ Kuwahara has been to Alaska more than eight times – and in 1996 she competed in The King of the Hill and placed 4th in the ‘Extreme’ category and 6th overall.

SHEESA turned pro in 1994 and has since won major competitions and has been featured in films and countless magazines. Today, she is still a sponsored rider and devotes everyday of her winter season to her sport. Her knowledge of carving is something she wants to share with everyone; she hosts ladies camps, instructs lessons, and guides during the winter. Powderlife caught up with Sheesa before she hosted one of her ladies camps. Here’s what she has to say about life and living in Niseko.

When did you first come to Niseko?
In April of 1990.

How did you get your nickname Sheesa?
Before I started snowboarding, I lived in Okinawa. One of my friends told me I looked like a Shisa (a traditional Okinawan decoration, often in pairs, resembling a cross between a lion and a dog; from Okinawa mythology).

What do you do here in Niseko?
I teach private intermediate/advanced snowboard lessons at ‘SHEESA RIDING CAMP’. Lessons are held in various locations in Honshu, as well as in Niseko. I also do some Alaskan tours in the spring.

What is it about snowboarding that you really love?
Sometimes I’m really focused on my riding and I feel the time goes by slowly. Snowboarding is a tool that gives me this kind of amazing moment, which you cannot experience in your everyday life.

You hold local ladies camps in winter – what is it that you want other people to get out of snowboarding?
The better you get, the more you can enjoy riding. I would like these girls to think how to ride better on any slope. If they do this, every run will be enjoyable.

How do you make a living – do you have sponsors?
I live off of the signing bonuses from my sponsors and the sales from my riding camp. My sponsors are GENTEMSTICK, HAGLOFS, HESTRA, POC, and KASK.

You have a Gentem board named after you – how does that make you feel?
I am thankful to produce my third signature board – TRINITY. I was involved with GENTEMSTICK for the development of new boards as a woman rider for many years. I researched a lot about making a comfortable women’s board and we recently made one just for women, which is good for either backcountry or the groomers.

Would you call yourself a snow surfer?
I don’t call myself a ‘snow surfer’, but I do like riding into the wall of snow just like I do when I surf. At my riding camp, I teach girls things like this and they enjoy snowboarding more than before because now they know how to ‘play’ when they ride. But, it’s not only my style that influences riders; Gentem riders influence a lot of snowboarders nationwide.

What has been your biggest snowboarding challenge?
When I entered the King of the Hill extreme snowboard contest.

What have been your greatest achievements?
Being a pro snowboarder for many years is a great accomplishment, and I still enjoy riding today. I hope this will inspire people.

Who or what inspires you?
That feeling when I ride. I never get bored riding because I see myself getting better every year.

Where do you find peace in life?
I feel peaceful everyday.

What do you do in the summer when there is no snow?
My hobby is picking mountain vegetables and planting different kinds of vegetables at my own garden. I also started surfing a few years ago.

Where is the best place you have ever snowboarded?
Niseko and Alaska.

What is your earliest snowboarding memory?
I remember that moment clearly. I was laughing all the time despite how hard and how many times I fell down.

What do you think about when you snowboard?
I concentrate on my riding so I don’t think about any other things.

What advice would you give to other females trying to become professional snowboarders?
Find someone to follow and learn from that person.Ride a lot and think about the best way to ride!

What do you do in the summer when there is no snow?
My hobby is picking mountain vegetables and planting different kinds of vegetables at my own garden. I also started surfing a few years ago.

Where is the best place you have ever snowboarded?
Niseko and Alaska.

What is your earliest snowboarding memory?
I remember that moment clearly. I was laughing all the time despite how hard and how many times I fell down.

What advice would you give to other females trying to become professional snowboarders?
Find someone to follow and learn from that person. Ride a lot and think about the best way to ride!

For more info visit Sheesa’s website

@ www.sheesa.com

Words by Lizzy Hoo

Translation by Yuri Pangier

Photo by Ross Cole-Hunter

Leave a Reply