Surfer: Taylor Beatty / Photographer: Unknown
Doing an interview is never easy. There are two kinds of people: the ones that talk during hours and the other ones, those who has trouble saying more than two words as an answer. Then, there is Ryo, talking about anything else except himself and his company. While trying to have answers from him, all I get is the same three words ‘’I don’t know…’’ and then, he asks me a question. About anything: Canada, my family, my time in California, Nouvelle Vague. I almost feel like the one that was getting interviewed, but I got used to it and gave up on that interview. I don’t need an interview with the founder of Reunion Wetsuits to talk about the brand and to talk about Ryo Yokota. Talking about anything while eating sushi at Bear Flag Fish Company is enough: the food is excellent, and I love Ryo as he is, dodging my questions, talking Japanese to the chef and being the nicest person around, as usual.
Reunion Wetsuits is a Japanese company, but Ryo lives in two places: Tokyo and California. Surprisingly, the surf culture is pretty big in Japan, and Ryo grew up surfing, even though his plan wasn’t to go in the industry. While he was in College, one of his friends was the owner of a wetsuit company and offered him a part-time job. It was all about surfing, and it allowed him to get a good glimpse at the surf world. Then, he realized he didn’t like all the big logos on wetsuits. For him, big logos are all about ego, so he wanted to have cool wetsuits with a small one, just like Reunion Wetsuits. ‘’Dream came true, right?’’ he told me while sipping on his sake and laughing. Now being recognized by big brands in the industry and collaborating with brands such Volcom, Stance, Brixton and even more, Ryo doesn’t seem to understand that his company is now a reference in the world. He’s now making custom wetsuits for some of the best surfers, living the dream he always wanted. Life isn’t that bad when you work hard for what you want, isn’t?
Probably being the most humble person around, Ryo will never say what he is exactly doing. For him, Reunion Wetsuits is still a small brand trying to get bigger, but when you know what he achieved, you know it isn’t exactly that. He’s the maker of some of the best wetsuits on the market at the moment, and it’s not something anyone can do. If you want him to like you, go surf San Onofre with him, it’s one of his favourite spot in California. Even when he harassed me a thousand times to go, I still haven’t gone, and it’s now definitely on my bucket list.
So, why should you choose Reunion Wetsuits when you are thinking about buying yourself a new suit? Does he have any interest for winter wetsuits anyway, and does he have any interest for us, Canadians? When I asked him what would be the next location he would want to sell to, he told me it would be Canada, as surfing is getting bigger every year. And when I tried to understand what was his ideas about the future of the brand, only one thing came into his mind, ‘’I don’t know, what should I do?’’. Living in the present and going with the flow, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
I didn’t know about Reunion Wetsuits before, but I knew about Volcom. Well, he’s the one behind the wetsuits, he’s the creator, he’s the founder, he’s the innovator. And if you’re still not convinced to deal with Ryo, give yourself a break, meet him and talk about the custom wetsuits you want. You’ll understand what I mean - you will find more than just a founder of something important, you will find a friend. A friend that is supposed to