Photo: Brian Bielmann

Photo: Brian Bielmann/Red Bull

Red Bull Heavy Water Breakdown with Kai Lenny

Red Bull Heavy Water is an extreme event. Extreme athletes, extreme venue, extreme sponsor and if conditions align during this final week of the month-long waiting period (Open from September 1 until September 28 ), the show will be extremely entertaining. If not, we may have to wait until next year to get so extreme, but as Kai Lenny attests, the competition will be extremely worth the wait, regardless. So, what exactly is Red Bull Heavy Water? We caught up with Lenny for an updated breakdown and some insight about what to expect from Red Bull’s premier event in standup paddleboarding.

SUP: What is Red Bull's goal in creating this race?
I think Red Bull's goal, and what this race will become known for, is creating an event for SUP similar to what the Eddie Aikau contest is for surfing. Maybe it won't get big enough to run some years, but when it does it will be the best spectacle there is. There will be 40 of the best guys on the planet going head-to-head in giant surf as fast as they can. To win this type of race is such an accomplishment because you're not just going up against the best paddlers, you're going against the best of Mother Nature.

This is Red Bull's first standup paddling event. What's the relevance of such a prominent brand getting involved in the industry?
Having Red Bull involved in standup paddling and putting on an event is huge for the industry because they're the most legitimate action sports brand out there and they put their money where their mouth is. They want to have the best event possible and have the conditions be absolutely all-time. They’re aiming to host one of the gnarliest SUP races ever, next-level from anything we've ever seen.

What makes the San Francisco Bay and Ocean Beach such an ideal venue for a race like this?
The waves at Ocean Beach are always big and with a month-long waiting period it has potential for conditions to be spectacular. It's an awesome venue for the spectators because they'll get to see the racers charging huge surf on these massive race boards with the potential to actually get barreled. The race starts in a heavy surf zone at Ocean Beach and wraps into San Francisco Bay. Competitors will need to be super methodical approaching the Golden Gate Bridge and take the right line to either avoid the current or use it as an advantage. It's going to be the most technical condition-based race ever, and the coolest part is that fifty percent will be through the waves and the other fifty percent will be a flatwater and/or downwind paddle.

The forecast is calling for a bump in surf during the coming weekend but nothing too extreme. How do you see the event playing out as we approach the final days of the waiting period? Will it run?
Ideally we'll wait for the swell to bump up a bit more. It's fun because at Ocean Beach you never know what the conditions will really be like until you’re there checking it. It can always be bigger or smaller than what's being predicted. It's going to come down to the organizers making the right call, but it's basically at the will of Mother Nature. A lot can change in the amount of time between now and the end of the waiting period so let's just hope the swell kicks up.

What do you foresee being the future legacy of this race? How do you see it progressing in years to come?
I think if the conditions are right and it runs as planned it's going to be a huge success. It's going to be a very actionable race in terms of carnage and sheer wave-riding and fitness level as well. This is going to be a reoccurring event every year as long as the first one is as unbelievable as we expect it to be. In the right conditions, it will be phenomenal to witness, and they're not going to run it in mediocre conditions. That said, there's a lot of potential for it to run before the end of the waiting period so there's no counting it out yet.

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