Watch Japanese fusion legend Masayoshi Takanaka shred on an awe-inspiring surfboard guitar

Masayoshi Takanaka plays a surfboard guitar onstage
(Image credit: Bugok2368/YouTube)

When you think of outrageously oversized custom electric guitars – the kind that get chiropractors salivating – a few prominent examples probably come to mind. 

There's Jared Dines, and his infamous Ormsby 18-String guitar (not to mention his even more monstrous 20-string Mountain Dew Meme guitar). There's also the 17-string bass guitar – itself a knock-off of Dines' Ormsby model – that Elwood Francis used at a November 2022 ZZ Top show in Huntsville, Alabama.

Then, of course, there's the backbreaking guitar king, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick famous for taking the stage with a custom, quintuple-neck Hamer.

Be sure to – if you weren't aware of him already – add Masayoshi Takanaka to this list.

A legendary fusion guitarist, revered in his native Japan for his extensive contributions to popular and rock music in that country over the decades – especially the late '70s and early '80s – Masayoshi Takanaka also has a famous fondness for ludicrous custom guitars, the most famous of which is his incredibly campy, and incredibly awesome, surfboard electric guitar.

You can see Takanaka take the ungainly six-string for a spin during a 2008 performance of his song, Beleza Pura, below. 

Given the sheer size of the thing, it's amazing how smooth Takanaka's phrasing is, especially in the more rapid-fire sections of the samba and bossa nova-influenced song, which can be found on the guitarist's appropriately named 1978 LP, Brasilian Skies.

The whole thing, though, is worth watching just to see Takanaka's shit-eating grin when he enters the stage at around the 2:27 mark, holding the guitar. And who can blame him? 

"It's hard to play, as expected," Takanaka said of the monstrous six-string in a Japanese TV interview. "I just play this because I wonder if people watching me will find it fun, but I wonder if some percentage of them think I'm stupid," he continued, laughing.

"It weighs about 6 kilograms (~13.2 pounds)," he went on, "so if I play two songs with this guitar at a concert, I will get a little more exhausted."

Incredibly, though, the surfboard axe might not even be the craziest guitar Takanaka's ever used on stage. That distinction most likely falls to a custom lap-steel model the guitarist used prominently during a performance of the song Left Alone.

This guitar, mind you, has a fully-functioning miniature model train set on its body, which runs while Takanaka plays – because why not?

Watching these entertaining videos, it might be easy to dismiss Takanaka as less a serious guitarist than a novelty act, but that would be a mistake. Indeed, Santana shared a bill with Takanaka during their 1981 tour of Japan, with Carlos Santana even inviting Takanaka to take part in some electrifying onstage jams.

YouTuber T2norway's mini-documentary on Takanaka highlights some excellent starting points in the guitarist's discography, such as his seminal 1979 album, All of Me, his 1981 fusion/fantasy concept album, The Rainbow Goblins, or his amazing, self-explanatory 1978 cut, Star Wars Samba.

Whether writing about goblins or the beach – or playing a typical Stratocaster or a guitar in the shape of a surfboard – Takanaka imbues his music with an unmistakable, endearingly melodic six-string touch. His discography is well worth exploration.

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.