Stab Magazine | Kai Otton Retires From Competitive Surfing

And The Winners Of The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Are... Watch The Pick-Up Episode 5, Presented by Vans, To Find Out


Kai Otton Retires From Competitive Surfing

“I’m just gonna go surf, and hang out with Taj.”

news // Dec 19, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.

Screen Shot 2016 12 19 at 11.20.28 am



Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Stab Surfer of the Year: John John Florence, Italo Ferreira, Balaram Stack, Rolo Montes, and Shaun Manners

Day 9: "You can't do better than his year last year." - John John Florence

Jan 28, 2023

Full Moon Surfs, Impassable Puddles, And A Few Nights Spent Sleeping In A WSL Commentary Booth

A reader-submitted collection of nonconformist surf stories.

Jan 27, 2023

Carissa Moore And Finn McGill Are Your 2023 Vans Triple Crown Of Surfing Champions 

They both pocket $50k and tickets to this year’s Vans Pipe Masters.

Jan 27, 2023


The Pick-Up, Presented By Vans, Episode 5

Mason Ho helps us ring in our final week on the North Shore.

Jan 27, 2023

Goofyfoot Brazilian World Champion Stars In Stab’s Biggest Board-Testing Franchise

Can you guess who?

Jan 26, 2023

Surf Community Rallies To Raise Funds For Eddie Winner And On-Duty Hawaiian Lifeguard Luke Shepardson

Because it's the right thing to do, of course.

Jan 26, 2023

Interview: Caity Simmers On Machete Wars, Rihanna, Personal Project Problems, And The Rise Of Female Surf Content. 

A toast to ‘Toasted.’

Jan 25, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: Creed McTaggart, Albee Layer, Laura Enever, Dane Guduaskas, and Selema Masekela

Day 8: "65 years young and charging just as hard as ever at Pipe, Backdoor,…

Jan 25, 2023

“I’m Not A Big Wave Guy”

How Kai Paula accidentally made his mark at Jaws three weeks after surfing it for…

Jan 24, 2023

Everyone Went.

A toes in the sand, phone in the lagoon account of the 10th Eddie Aikau…

Jan 24, 2023

Breaking: Another CT Rookie Injured Before First Event

Sophie McCulloch pulls out of Pipeline due to Snapper Rocks snafu.

Jan 23, 2023


Watch: ‘Toasted,’ By Caity Simmers

Your favorite surfer directs, edits, and stars in her first feature film. 

Jan 23, 2023

On-Duty North Shore Lifeguard Luke Shepardson Wins The Eddie Aikau

Local man prevails over 39 big-wave heavyweights at 29ft @ 19 seconds Waimea.

Jan 23, 2023

The Eddie Aikau Invitational Is On

Grab a beverage and enjoy surfing's Super Bowl Sunday

Jan 22, 2023

The Women’s CT Is About To See A Generational Shift 

Only three women have won a Title in the past 15 years. Here's why that's…

Jan 22, 2023


“One For Marcio” – Albee Layer’s Tribute To Mad Dog

Imagine treating 30ft Jaws like Backdoor.

Jan 22, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: Noa Deane, Jamie O’Brien, Parker Coffin, Cliff Kapono, and Brendan Buckley

Day 7: "It's like he feels more comfortable when it’s as gnarly as it gets."…

Jan 21, 2023

Five Reasons Why The Eddie Still Matters

With better waves around the world and likely no prize money, why is The Eddie…

Jan 20, 2023