Kai Lenny. We’ve sung his praise aplenty. But he deserves every bit of press he gets. Without a doubt, he’s one of the world’s best waterman, whether SUP surfing or racing, tow-in or prone surfing, windsurfing or kiting, kid’s got game. So enjoy this Wednesday Voice with Kai Lenny and the bonus interview with Kai below following his second place finish at the Battle of the Paddle and the World Championship he capped on the Standup World Series this fall on Oahu, not to mention his history-making paddle-in session at Jaws. Also check out Kai and the rest of Generation Maui in the Fall issue of SUP magazine, on newsstands now!
SM: You won the Standup World Series and took second at the BOP. What changed?
KL: I got into racing this year because I was inspired by all those fast guys out there. But I didn't realize how hard it was. I'm in the best physical shape of my life and now I'm riding waves so much better thanks to standup racing. It tests me mentally. The sport is 60 percent mental and 40 percent physical. It demands your upmost focus. You do a gnarly training run and you feel great. I had an advantage coming into racing as I was already so into wave riding. I had a good foundation. But then all of sudden I had to start training. One thing I learned, you put the miles in, you see a return. I go out for a 30 minute paddle, it helps me later on. It's a fine balance, though. You don't want to overwork, but you don't want to under-train either.
SM: How has you're regimen changed?
KL: My regimen is pretty basic. I paddle on my raceboard most often, at least once a day. I focus on pushing myself, improving my technique, really having everything mechanically correct, so it's the exact same stroke every time. I paddle with Dave Kalama and he's eye balling my stroke, tuning me up, making sure my paddle isn't pulled past my feet. Little things, tiny little things save energy.
SM: You once told me you do so many sports in one day you'll just pull up to Taco Bell and grab a huge burrito to get calories. Have you switched up your eating habits?
KL: Still, to be honest, the only thing I've changed up in my routine was adding the race component. I still go to Taco Bell. I eat super healthy but all the research I've done, Taco Bell is the healthiest fast food out there. A bean and cheese burrito is hard to mess up. I burn so many calories, when I first started doing race training I lost 10 pounds. I eat as much as I can, four meals a day. And when I'm not in the water I'm cross-training– riding a bike uphill or sprinting uphill.
SM: Were you bummed the Huntington event was cancelled on the World Tour?
KL: For sure, I was bummed. I wanted to compete in Huntington. But I just have to remind myself it's the growing pains. Look at any tour, events have to be canceled occasionally. But the Standup World Tour is so epic, I'm so grateful there's as good of a tour as there is. I look forward to next event (in Brazil, November 28-Dec. 5, 2012, broadcast live at SUPthemag.com). I don't let it bother me. The sport is growing so fast, I think in a few years we'll have it so dialed in, we won't even remember an event being missed.
SM: What's the difference you see between the wave and race side of competition?
KL: From my perspective, the wave side is a little more cut throat. You're looking out for your best interest. There's not quite as much camaraderie. In racing, it's not about wave luck. Anybody can get a good wave and put a good score up but in racing, it's so cut and dry you can't blame anyone for your performance. It's a totally different mentality. Surfing has an edge naturally. Normal surfing transferred a little into standup. Standup wave riding is kind of like a dirtbike feeling, while racing has a cycling feel to it.
SM: Your Performance at Jaws (Peahi) this Fall was Insane. You were out there hanging with Shane Dorian and all the other legends during a history-making paddle-in session (traditional surfing). Doesn't it seem like the mainstream surf media sort of forgets about you?
KL: There's old tradition in surfing--and it keeps me humble. It's cool though, I'm honored and stoked for the attention for standup surfing, I'm stoked to be in your magazine. At Jaws I caught so many waves. It was cool to get one on Surfline, but I don't care if I get photos. That drop in air was so out of control. It was funny though, I had so many insane rides and good barrels. But it's all good. One day, I'll break in. It just takes time.
SM: I think a lot of people would like to see that happen for you.
KL: A lot of it is because you don't know people personally or have a relationship with them (photographers). It's the same in gnarly areas, like going to Pipeline, if you just go out there, it's harder to get waves. But if I show up and know somebody, I can get all these waves. It's weird that way. Surfing is so unique. It keeps a lot of people humble. You can't just walk in, show up and blow up. You have got to constantly prove yourself and be a consistent athlete and not a fluke. It makes you grateful.
—As told to Joe Carberry