Catching up with Kai Lenny – Celebrating one of the sport’s great watermen

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One of Naish’s most talented and active athletes, Kai Lenny, is a man who is constantly on the move. Whether he’s competing on the WSL Big Wave World Tour, Qualifying Series, APP World Tour or just revolutionizing watersports in general, Lenny can be a hard guy to keep track of. Luckily we were able to grab his attention for a millisecond between sessions as he darts around Hawaii chasing waves from spot to spot, to briefly catch up and see how he’s doing.

Kai Lenny Naish sup surf
Naish’s all-around waterman: standup racer, foil innovator, big wave charger, kite & windsurfer, Kai Lenny takes a moment to reflect on the moments that make his life magic.

Catching up with Kai:  Nazare

Naish : You’ve been logging some air miles lately competing on the WSL Big Wave World Tour, was this your first time at Nazaré and what did you think of the wave?

KAI: My experience going to Nazare for the first time as apart of the Big Wave World Tour was jaw dropping. In photos and video the wave appears to be a big and rolling avalanche. In reality it’s top to bottom, thick, mean and way bigger! I was humbled by its ferocious waves. By far the gnarliest whitewater I have ever been in, in my life. It’s almost more terrifying just getting off the beach than riding the wave!

Kai Lenny Naish Backdoor shootout
The best part of the Pipeline Backdoor Shootout is that there is only 3 guys in the line up, says Kai.

Backdoor Shootout

Q: You also received the invite to surf at the Dahui Backdoor Shootout, getting to surf massive Pipeline with only a couple guys in the lineup, how was that experience?

Kai:  To be invited to a very local and core event is an honor. It is also nerve racking since I felt that no matter what I had to charge and prove myself on the ultimate surfing proving grounds, Pipeline. The waves were big, and perfect but there were a lot of gnarly waves and I payed some major dues a few times. Happy I came out of it unscathed and with a vision of a few big barrels. The best part of this event is the fact here is only you and 3 other guys. Normally there is a hundred and it makes it so difficult to get a wave of you don’t have a spot in the pecking order.

Kai Lenny Naish Paia Youth Cultural Center Maui
The PYCC is a program for Maui children focusing on Hawaiian values in order to build community through the island’s youth. This year’s 20th Annual Pa’ia Bay Beach Fest celebrated local youth with inspirational athletes like Kai.

Empowering Maui’s Youth

Q: On a more local level, you’re teaming up with the Paia Youth & Cultural Center to host Beach Fest 2017. Care to elaborate more on your relationship with PYCC and what this event is all about?

This year I had the opportunity to step in and work with the PYCC on hosting the 20th annual Beach fest. An event that I remember doing as a tiny kid. I especially wanted to do for the kids of today so they can of course have fun but be inspired by a positive experience. I am excited to continue supporting this great event and hopefully make it bigger and better next year!

Kai Lenny Naish foil Mololo
Learning to fly, Kai dives deep into the experience of hydrofoil whether on surf, sups or racing boards. Keep an eye on his talent and keen eye for design.

Hydofoil:  Innovation & Design

Q: You were pretty instrumental in the development of the Naish Malolo foil, what are some of your favorite characteristics of it and are you using the same foil for both surfing and downwind runs?

The foil has really changed my approach to everyday water activities. I can’t imagine going downwind or riding tiny surf not on one. What I love about the Malolo over everything else I have used is its smooth and very easy riding but also it’s ability to perform is amazing. It literally parallels snowboarding chest deep powder!

Kai Lenny Naish John John Florence Koa Smith
Hydrofoil surfing with great sport innovators, Kai and legends John John Florence and Kao Smith are at the forefront of the next wave of surf design!

What’s Next?

Q: Any upcoming video projects, trips or contests your fans can look forward to learning more about this year?

There is so much in pipeline that I’m gonna leave most of it for a surprise but as of right now I’m looking forward to competing in the Volcom Pipe Pro as well as the APP Sunset Beach Pro. Hopefully Jaws breaks again and the last tour stop for the Big Wave World tour runs.

Be sure to follow Kai Lenny to keep up with everything he is involved with

Instagram: @kai_lenny


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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.