Kai vs. Connor: In Their Words

Battling at the 2014 Battle of the Paddle. Kai Lenny and Connor Baxter. Photo: Tom Servais
Battling at the 2014 Battle of the Paddle. Kai Lenny and Connor Baxter. Photo: Tom Servais

Kai vs. Connor: In Their Words

Last week I penned an opinion piece regarding Kai Lenny and Connor Baxter going head-to-head on “The Wave” during the 2014 Battle of the Paddle and the controversy that followed. The response from readers has varied. In the process of writing the article I spoke with Baxter, Danny Ching, Barrett Tester and contacted Lenny about the incident to get as clear a picture as possible—I was also on the water’s edge and watched it all go down. After the article was released, Lenny responded as well. We’re now publishing both Lenny and Baxter’s responses (including a video Baxter released after the piece was published) in full.

Kai Lenny
Basically, how much bumping is too much?
In every major sport there is some form of “rubbing is racing” and truthfully it can go over the line like at BOP this year. Hopefully we never have to have that happen again and in a perfect world we wouldn’t need rules. I think it will be great to have rules preventing any foul play to occur in the future!

Do you think there needs to be rules in place for that sort of thing?
Honestly, I don’t think there need to be rules and everyone should play fair, but that’s not going to happen. I would prefer to keep it gentleman–like in every race–but when you get pushed up against a wall you have to push back, otherwise that person will continue doing it. You can’t expect to punch someone in the face and not get hit back, that’s obvious.

Looking back at that specific wave would you have done anything differently?

Here is my perspective on what happened and why I reacted the way I did. I chose my line on the wave without the intention of pushing Connor or the other racers, off of the wave. I saw where the chicane was and began to head straight for the center, that’s called going for the racing line. I wasn’t even near touching Connor’s rail as you can see in every video and photo taken. He decided because I wasn’t bowing down to him that he would rather take me out of the race than paddle against me. That is just fact. You can look back to a couple of weeks previous at the Huntington Beach Pro when I was caught completely off guard and he pushed myself and Casper (Steinfath) off a wave so he could secure a win. So after that incident I told myself that if that ever happens again I am going to push back. After he attempted to make me fall, where I nearly ran into Danny Ching, I reacted by turning back towards the chicane so I wouldn’t have to run from down the beach and then Connor popped a wheelie and turned, landing directly onto my board and I fell forward. If he is taking me down, I felt he should be coming with me. This did not affect anyone else besides the two of us and by the time we both made it to the beach Danny was already hitting the water after he ran the chicane.

And overall, was there anything that you learned from the race that you’ll take with you to future races?

What I have learned is that I am so grateful to have my family, all of my friends and amazing sponsors who witnessed and saw all the video, photos and did not judge me. Hopefully, this does not have to happen again. I am very grateful to surrounded my the best people!


Go to 2:15 to hear what Baxter has to say about “The Wave.”

Connor Baxter
Basically, how much bumping is too much?
What I (did) was too much for sure but I had a good reason to because Kai was pushing me north of the beach run.

Do you think there needs to be rules in place for that sort of thing?
For sure there needs to be rules and what we did made everyone realize we need rules.

Looking back at that specific wave would you have done anything differently?
If I could go back I wish I could notice Kai jumping off his board and grabbing my handle so I could of avoid that.

And overall, was there anything that you learned from the race that you’ll take with you to future races?
Every race I learn something new and this race I learn that playing Kai’s game is never the right thing to do. So next time I will try something different.

For a full analysis of the incident, click here.