Kai Otton Retires From Competitive Surfing
“I’m just gonna go surf, and hang out with Taj.”
Over the last 10 years, Kai Otton has been, at times, a thrilling addition to the World Tour of surf. He has never spun into the wind like a Filipe or a Gabriel, but nor has he ever met a thumping left tube he wouldn’t swing on (particularly at Teahupoo). And today, after failing to requalify for the 2017 World Tour, Kai takes leave from full time competitive surfing at the highest level, via what he describes as a “forced retirement.”
In their round three heat, Kai was leading Kolohe Andino, when Kolohe swung on a Backdoor runner in the dying moments, scooping a 6.50 and closing the door on Kai’s Pipe Masters run, and World Tour career.
Good friend Joel Parkinson, who was in the water for the next heat, gave Kai a pat on the back as the buzzer sounded. On the beach, surrounded by family and friends, Kai spoke with Rosie Hodge, who asked about his plans for 2017.
“It’s kind of a forced retirement,” said Kai. “I didn’t really want to, I would have gone again next year if all the boys were there. (But) I’m not gonna chase the QS, so this is probably my last event.
“It’s been fun, it’s pretty piddly little Backdoor and that’s always a challenge on your backhand, and a bit of a cruel way to finish with Kolohe pipping me there at the end, but yeah, I’m gonna do a couple of little events near home, get out of my bed and go do it, and just go surf… hang out with Taj, get barrelled.
“It’s gotta sink in first (before thinking about events next year), it’s only just hit home. But thanks to everyone that got me here. It started with my family at home, and obviously I went up to Sydney as a young guy, and got looked after by a heap of guys at Aloha, and then the Insight Crew, and then all the crew at Reef that’ve supported me the last five years, in America, Europe, and Australia especially. It’s been great, I really appreciate it.
“It’s been a dream. It was looking like I maybe wasn’t gonna qualify, I didn’t get here til I was 27, and you can only go so many years until you have to check yourself and the reality sinks in that you might not make it, and I made it on that last year that I decided would be my last year. And 10 years later… it’s been fun.”
Kai was one of the four men who opted to paddle out for their heats at rapidly-building Cloudbreak on That day in 2012. And, this was the sort of brazen attitude he always wore as a competitor, whether it was in scrappy battles at knee-high beachbreaks or scratching over the ledge on unwanted bomb sets. And, that’s the competitor he’ll be remembered as.
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