Kai Lenny crosses Hawaiian island chain to clean up ocean pollution and sets NEW world record for Molokai to Oahu

Kai Lenny Naish Hawaii ocean plastics Red Bull clean up banner
Naish Team Rider Kai Lenny takes on ocean plastics in an multi-island chain crossing throughout Hawaii on his sup and other equipment.
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Naish team rider Kai Lenny traveled over 200 miles through the open ocean Hawaiian channels to clean up coastal areas and raise awareness about ocean pollution. 


Kai leads first Hawaiian island coastal clean up on a downwinder like no other!

In March 2017, 6x World Champion Kai Lenny worked alongside Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and the 5 Gyres Institute in a statewide coastal clean up throughout the Hawaiian islands.  This effort was the first of its kind.  Kai traveled 200 miles through the legendary Hawaiian channels to inspire beach clean ups and empower local communities around oceanic pollution. The crossings, which Kai is familiar with having grown up in the islands, are generally 30 to 50 miles each.  Kai crossed them using a variety of hydrofoils including his hydrofoil surfboard, kiteboard and stand up.  On the final crossing from Oahu to Kauai, he used a sailboat. Together with Alison Teal, an advocate for the ocean plastic problem and Naked & Afraid alumna, Kai’s team charged the reality of ocean pollution and developed strategies for minimizing its impact on oceans and coastlines.

It took Kai five days to complete the journey through his native island chain.  His first crossing, the Alenuiha’ha channel between the Big Island and Maui, is regarded by the United States Coast Guard as one of the most treacherous channels in the world due to its strong winds, high seas and large population of sharks.  For a guy like Kai, completing the channel crossings also acted as a training run for his upcoming competitive stand up paddle racing season.

Kai Lenny Naish Malolo foil channel crossings Red Bull ocean pollution
Kai Lenny broke the World Record for completing the legendary Molokai to Oahu channel crossing by 41 minutes while working to clean up ocean plastics.  Good karma?  We think so!  Photo by:  Andy Mann

Kai ‘unofficially’ sets a new World Record on Molokai to Oahu crossing

In fact, while completing the Molokai to Oahu crossing, Kai broke his own record for this run by 41 minutes. 

“It’s unofficial,” Lenny corrected. “But when the race comes around this summer and I have the opportunity to do it again — I’ll make it official.  By breaking the Molokai to Oahu record, my confidence to do it again and to continue to set new personal bests is at MAX capacity.  I feel like the door has officially been swung open to try new things on this channel and in this sport.”

In an effort to raise awareness about the importance of keeping coastlines clean — and stopping plastics from entering the ocean — at each shore Lenny foiled to, he organized massive beach cleanups. With the help of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and The 5 Gyres Institute, Lenny staged the biggest statewide beach cleanup Hawaii has ever seen.

Under direction of the 5 Gyres Director and Co-Founder Dr. Marcus Eriksen, Lenny trawled for microplastic pollution.  This invisible-to-the-naked-eye debris was first identified by Erikson back in 2014 as a ‘plastic smog’.  Eriksen, later on, established the world’s first Global Estimate of Plastic Pollution.  The original estimate calculated 5.25 trillion particles weighing about 270,000 tons were polluting our oceans worldwide.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii participates in Downwind Voyage with Kai Lenny to promote massive beach clean ups and educate islanders about ocean plastics.  Photo by:  Andy Mann

Beach clean ups to raise awareness of ocean pollution

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and team collaborated with Kai and the 5 Gyres Institute on six beach clean ups on the Big Island, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu and Kauai in this joint venture.  Their clean ups removed 11,049 pounds of debris with the help of 326 people who came out to participate.

Lenny seeks, through this stand up paddle passion project, to give the world a close up perspective of the pollution generating between the islands while he himself imposed the least amount of environmental impact by traveling via wind and human powered water crafts instead of planes or boats.  These clean ups reflect Lenny’s passionate feeling for the islands, where he’s grown up and has experienced the impacts of that pollution.

“We can clean up all day, but we gotta figure out a way to stop the flow and put a plug in it,” said Lenny. “The ocean has really been the biggest provider for me aside from my parents, of course. So it’s only fair that I give back and protect it.”

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Kai Lenny works alongside Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii volunteers to clean up coastlines throughout the state and encourage people to learn more about what they can do to help.  Photo by:  Andy Mann

YOU can participate in Kai’s efforts by learning more about ocean pollution and supporting his mission!

To learn MORE and make a stand with Kai for this global issue, you can go to:  www.morethansport.org/pages/kai-lenny  and pick up limited edition merchandise that benefits 5 Gyres Institute and Sustainable Coastlines.


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Kai Lenny hydrofoils the channel crossings between Hawaiian islands as part of his efforts to bring awareness to the plastic pollution choking the oceans around Hawaii.  Photo by:  Andy Mann


Kai Lenny is one of the world’s most impressive watermen. From kiteboarding, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, big-wave surfing, or anything else in the water, Kai does it, and does it to the extreme.  He grew up on the north shore of  Maui, son of ocean enthusiasts, and was surfing by the time he was five years old.  Kai learned to kite before he was ten.  His impressive lineup of mentors include: from windsurfing legend Robby Naish  to big-wave chargers Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama.  Kai has completed the grueling 27-nautical mile Molokai to Oahu paddle many times,  is a veteran from the Professional Windsurfing Association World Wave Tour, has competed in the Kite Surf Pro World Championships, and won the Stand Up Paddle World Title six times and counting.  And still, Kai is foremost modest and humble. “All of my sports are surfing based,” says Kai. “My favorite thing in the world is riding a wave, so as long as I’m riding a wave, I’m happy.”

Beginning in 2010, the nonprofit 5 Gyres Institute began a series of scientific firsts by researching plastic in all five
subtropical gyres, as well as the Great Lakes and Antarctica. 5 Gyres’ paper on plastic microbead pollution in the
Great Lakes inspired a two-year collaborative campaign that culminated in a federal ban, signed by President
Obama in 2015. In 2017, 5 Gyres will embark on its 18th Expedition, to research micro and nanoplastic pollution
in the Arctic.

Through their action campaigns, 5 Gyres inspires individuals and communities to pledge to go #plasticfree for a day,
week, year—or forever. People can go #plasticfree by refusing the top five sources of single use plastic: plastic
bags, plastic bottles, plastic to-go containers, plastic takeaway cups, and plastic straws. The 5 Gyres Institute’s
vision is a planet free of plastic pollution and they believe, together, we can make a difference—one piece at a time.


Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is a grassroots, local nonprofit organization run by a small team of dedicated staff
and supported by passionate volunteers. They inspire local communities to care for their coastlines through fun,
hands-on beach cleanups. They also coordinate educational programs, public awareness campaigns and help others
run their own beach cleanups. They love Hawaii’s beaches and love to keep them clean. By educating people about
reducing their waste and the need to keep our beaches clean, they foster a connection to their coastline and
coastlines thousands of miles away.

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Evelyn O'Doherty, editor & publisher of the new Standup Journal 2.0 is a former school teacher gone rogue. She left her career as a teacher in order to spend more time near or on the water after learning to surf turned her life around (upsidedown?). She is a year-round surfer and paddler living on the eastern tip of Long Island in NY who is a certified SUP instructor, seasoned SUP racer and avid longboard surfer. Evelyn was hired as Online Editor to Standup Journal in 2016. Her passion for the project quickly led to her success and eventually taking over the mag herself in Oct. 2018. Today, as editor, publisher and chief bottle washer at Standup Journal, Evelyn keeps her toes wet writing, traveling, paddling, surfing, and learning to foil. You can find her most days paddling out on Gardiner's Bay or surfing Ditch Plains in Montauk, NY.