Ayumu and Kaishu Hirano Are Shaun White's Snowboarding Heirs

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Since the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, men’s halfpipe snowboarding has been a one-man show—in a fairly niche sport, Shaun White has been such a dominating and domineering presence that he’s become snowboarding’s inescapable of gravity for the better part of two decades. As such, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and White’s impending retirement represent an inflection point for the sport, a transition from the sport’s identity-defining past to its exciting, inchoate future. 

Ayumu Hirano and his little brother, Kaishu Hirano, are the future.

Originally from Murakami (a small coastal city in Japan), Ayumu and Kaishu have emerged as two of the most exciting figures in these Games. Last month at the X Games, the brothers both made it on the podium, securing silver and bronze respectively. While the pair lost to Australian Scotty James because of arcane technical aspects that aren’t obvious to the untrained eye, their statement was clear: they can fucking fly. 

Although both brothers are impressive and cool, Ayumu is the Peyton Manning to Kaishu’s Eli. A two-time Olympic silver medalist, the 23 year-old Ayumu is in the liminal space between prodigy and champion; with Shaun White on the wane, these Games are Hirano’s first real opportunity to solidify his status as the sport’s standard-bearer. 

Despite his relative smallness (Wikipedia lists him at 5’5), Ayumu is a powerfully athletic snowboarder; he produces more hang-time off the halfpipe than just about anybody else in the world, granting him ample time to piece together history-making combinations of twists and flips. Accordingly, Ayumu became the first person to ever land a triple cork in a recognized competition during the 2021 Dew Tour. Outside of snowboarding, Ayumu Hirano also competed in skateboarding park competition in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics last summer, establishing himself as Shaun White’s truest heir as a dual threat athlete who can thrive in both wintry and summery climes. 

In this sense, the Hirano brothers are part of the broader movement that’s cemented Japan as a nexus of all things cool. For years, we’ve scoured Grailed for Japanese streetwear, drank Japanese whiskey and played Japanese video games. Now, it’s only natural that we marvel at the Hirano brothers, Japan’s newest and hottest cultural export. 

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