“I Got Called In By Kelly Slater And Spat Out Next To Larry Haynes” - Stab Mag

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“I Got Called In By Kelly Slater And Spat Out Next To Larry Haynes”

‘Life Of Kai’ Ep. 2 recollects Kai Lenny’s breakthrough North Shore winter.

cinema // Apr 14, 2023
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Kai Lenny is one of the best big wave surfers in the world.

Top five, the way I figure it. 

I met him once, and truth be told, I didn’t want to like him. It was years ago, when I was still of the pre-20’s philosophy that being “cool” is in some way important. By many metrics, it’s not “cool” to ride SUPs, or to openly care about nutrition, or to wear straps and do backflips on small waves.

But as I watched Kai move about my local surf shop, talking earnestly with star-struck groms and engaging everyone with a genuine smile, it was immediately apparent that he was a man living his own truth.

Of course, I don’t need to justify Kai to the world. His 1.1 million Instagram followers realized long before I did that his remarkability extends far beyond wearing the right sunglasses.

What really surprised me about the latest Keith Malloy directed ‘Life Of Kai’ episode is that, despite his mountainous accolades, the 30-year old from Maui still has something to prove.

“This winter on the North Shore is a special one for me, I think it’s my hard work culminating into a moment where I’m in the biggest events here,” Kai says. “Coming into the Backdoor Shootout, it was about proving to myself that I can hang at this level.” Whether it speaks to the caliber of Pipeline, or to the humility of Kai, the guy who does backflips at Jaws still feels like he has more to leave on the table.

The enormous cave he packs at 9:30 leaves a lot on the table.

Kai recalls the wave, “Getting called in by Kelly Slater, and getting spat out of the tube right next to Larry Haynes was probably one of the most memorable surfing rides I’ve ever had.”

Following the Shootout, Kai was invited to the Eddie  — an event which fellow Jaws pioneer Albee Layer has notoriously turned up his nose at, because Jaws is good on the same swells.

Kai’s reasoning for skipping out on pulsing Peahi to surf maxing Waimea? “I’ve been dreaming of this moment since I was a little kid.”

We’re glad he showed up.

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