I just got off the water today at Lanes where I was able to sneak a morning stand up surf session. There was a small north swell hitting, and conditions were glassy early with very light winds. The size of the swell and its direction offered both rights and lefts ranging from chest high to slightly overhead. After two hours of being in the water, on my way back in I paddled into a lineup at Hookipa where I noticed a guy shredding and a photographer getting footage of him. As he was paddling back out, I saw it was Kai Lenny! I kind of geeked out in the parking lot later and was hesitant to bother him for a picture, but with a ton of humility and aloha he kindly accepted and posed with me.
In an interview at the Sunset Pro Classic, Connor Baxter, Cody Kerbox, Zane Schweitzer and Kai Lenny were interviewed about being raised on Maui what makes the Valley Isle a breeding ground for some of the top SUP athletes in the world. They all touched on access to all the famous surf breaks all over the island as well as legendary downwind runs like the Maliko. One of the more significant things they mentioned was mentorship and being taught early by some of the most well known and respected watermen in the world: Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Archie Kalepa, Buzzy Kerbox, Gerry Lopez, Robby Naish and more. What is really commendable about these torchbearers for the new generation is that they are not one trick ponies—they excel in multiple disciplines. Zane Schweitzer has won the Ultimate Waterman for two years. Kai’s pedigree and exploits are well documented in journals and his videos are all over YouTube. From foiling the Maliko Gulch to Stand Up Surfing Jaws and winning contests all over the globe, he really transcends any single discipline. If you want to see him in action there’s a video where he surfs, stand up surfs, kiteboards and windsurfs all in one day! You can check out more of Kai’s adventures on his website and through his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Connor Baxter has also won numerous M2O, Battle of the Paddle, and has been crowned the fastest paddler in the world multiple times.
While on Maui I have met and shared lineups with outright legends, Archie Kalepa, Snake Ahee, Loch Eggers, Dave Kalama, Chuck Patterson and numerous others. What has always impressed me about the older guard and this younger group is there outright humility and approachability. Kai had no problem stopping his conversation with his photographer to talk a little with me and pose for this picture. In between sets on the water and in the parking lot they are equally attentive and considerate. These true watermen are constantly striving to better themselves and find ways to further express themselves in the medium they love, the water. What I have found in meeting them and watching them at play is that they are not tied to ego or the past. Quite the contrary, they are constantly seeking and exploring new ways to challenge themselves and push the envelope of what is possible. Who knows what’s around the corner in the next evolution of Stand Up, what is certain is that it’s guys like Kai that will be leading the charge.