KAI LENNY INTERVIEW BY JEFF HO
PHOTOGRAPHY BY FISH BOWL DIARIES
Kai Lenny is one of the most innovative young chargers in the ocean pushing the limits of what can be done on the biggest waves in the world. Kai simply attacks the wave no matter what the size. His maneuvers in the most critical faces of 60 foot plus waves very few can fathom, let alone even attempt to try. The benchmark was when Jaws was just out of control unrideable. They called the contest off because it was so huge and Kai went out there and did that elevator drop. That was the most stylish, flawless riding I had ever seen on a big wave. Off his board, he is a father of twin girls, a loving husband, and son, and one of the most articulate, kindest people I have met. I was stoked to talk to this young revolutionary for this issue as we continue to progress the art of riding waves. – INTRODUCTION BY JEFF HO
How are you? Congratulations on your twin daughters. You’re a family man.
Thank you so much. I’m so stoked to be doing this with you legends. Thanks for having me on, first of all, and, yeah, having my kids is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I definitely have them in mind with all of the stuff that I’m doing and they are the extra motivation to go bigger. You know you’d do anything for your kids, whatever it takes to make sure they are stoked, happy and healthy.
Are you living close to where you grew up, near your mother and father?
Yeah. I’m super blessed. I live on Maui just down the street from my parents. I wanted my parents to have a really close relationship with their grandkids. Maui is a small community as you know. It’s a big small island, so it’s nice to be here and have my immediate family nearby. We’ve been having a blast. It’s good to have support from mom and dad.
When did you figure out that riding big waves was something that you enjoyed?
I always loved competing and I did all the surfing contests growing up, but other sports like kiting, windsurfing and those sorts of things were also a blast. Big wave surfing is you and Mother Nature in its most dynamic form and its finest moments. It’s a true connection to the water that I’ve never felt anywhere else. To be honest, I don’t know if I would be into big waves like I am today if it weren’t for the fact that Jaws is in my backyard. If Mount Everest was in your backyard and you watched it long enough, eventually, you would want to go and climb it. That’s what I did with Jaws. I got the nerve up to go out when I was 16 and it was the most terrifying moment in my life. At the same time, there is always so much opportunity in terms of experience and the waves that I could ride are so much better than anything else I had ridden. I went down that path of thinking, “Every time it breaks, I’m gonna go out there.” It’s been a really good relationship so far. At the end of the day, when it comes to surfing, I just want to ride really big waves.
I heard Laird Hamilton took you out there the first time. Is that how it went down?
Yeah. One of my earliest memories as a kid was being on the cliff watching Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama and the Strapped crew ride that wave. They were the earliest pioneers and they were doing it with no life jackets; no nothing. They wore board shorts and they had their 7’6” surfboards. When I was 16, I was invited by Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton to go out there. I think they saw something in me and that I had the eagerness to go out there and also maybe the ability to handle it. It was in March, which was the last swell of the season. I went out there on a hydrofoil board with snowboard boots. It was quite embarrassing at first because my snowboard boots that we’d use for hydrofoiling had gotten so old that salt had eaten away at the soles, so when I first got towed up, the soles came right off and I was just free standing on this board. I remember letting go of the rope and jumping off and seeing that look of disappointment on Laird and Dave’s face. They were like, “Can you even foil? Why are we even taking you out here?” Then I lifted my foot up and you could see the sole of my foot and they got a chuckle out of it. Dave threw me his boots and they were five sizes too big, but they did the job and I ended up making a bunch of waves out there. That was my first session, and it’s been 14 years since that day, but it seems like yesterday.
“Big wave surfing is you and Mother Nature in its most dynamic form and its finest moments. It’s a true connection to the water that I’ve never felt anywhere else.”
When I see you surfing, there is a skate influence to your style. When did you start skating and what skateboard did you use?
Skateboarding was always the conduit or pathway to my surfing. As a kid, you’re limited to the street you grow up on and my parents worked sun-up to sundown, so when my brother and I would imagine ourselves trying to surf these big waves, we were actually bombing our hill in our backyard. We would tow each other in on bicycles because we wanted to pretend like we were at Jaws. I ended up towing my brother in way too fast and he would go flying through a bush. Then he would get revenge on me and do the same thing. Skateboarding was a way to connect with surfing when I wasn’t able to get to the beach. I’ve always appreciated skateboarding for being one of the top influences on surfing. If you look at any of the best surfers, they all have a skate background, even if it was just when they were a kid. It’s having the knowledge of how to stay over your board and rotate around with it, using your feet as if they were your hands, so you can get the board through the wind. I take huge inspiration from that, as well as taking inspiration from the guys that are hitting the Mega Ramps because my Mega Ramp is now a big wave. It’s completely different, but there are many similarities. I can’t remember the brand of skateboard that I first had. It was whatever we could get our hands on. Then we were skating bigger ramps because it was like knifing away at Backdoor. The boards we ended up spending most of the time on are Carver boards because it really felt like you were surfing the earth. We have a big 10,000-foot mountain here. When we were younger, we’d go up in trucks and skate certain sections of the mountain and it took a few hours to get all the way down.
So you have a few Carver board models.
Yeah. I don’t consider myself the best skater by any means, but it’s one of those things where I use the skateboard now to train. When I was a kid, I used the board more to imagine I was surfing and, at the same time, I used it just to go skating. Now my goal and my focus is on the water, so I’m utilizing it as a tool to get better at surfing and it’s really helped my surfing. I travel around the world and the number one carry-on item I have is my skateboard. There’s always a bank to rip on or a drainage ditch to find somewhere along the way. When Carver reached out and wanted to give me models, I never thought in a million years I would have a skate deck, but I really appreciate it. I appreciate the art on the boards and the art form of skating. It is really rad. I can put my flair on it and bring my influence from my surfing to the boards I ride and it makes me proud to go skate more every day. It’s been fun.
Cool. Do you spend a lot of time training when you’re not in the water?
Yeah. My biggest problem is that I can’t get my mind off of my goals and what I love to do in the water, riding waves. The hardest thing for me to do is take a rest day where I don’t do anything and I just hang out. Usually, all my friends are training in the gym. It’s all preventative injury stuff because we just want to be on the water as much as possible. My theory has always been, if I can just train when I’m not in the water, I can be fit and not get as tired as quick so I can stay on the water. I like getting imaginative with how I train versus just going to the gym and lifting weights, which can get pretty boring. I’d rather use my skateboard to get my legs really strong or work on a type of turn. I want to go skate my ramp and try to get smarter about how I stay over my board. If I’m trying to learn double rotations on a surfboard, why not try to learn rotations on a skateboard first? I train a lot off the water so, when the good days come, I can stay out all day. If a 60-foot wave lands on my head, it shouldn’t take any energy out of me. It should just be like, “Okay, pick me up. Let’s go back out.”
What are your main goals now when you go out in the water?
Right now it’s doing a double Crippler or double backflip. It’s snowboarding inspired. I want to do that on a really big wave. That’s on my tow in board with straps on it. That board weighs about 20 pounds. The idea is you’re going about 40 or 50 miles an hour down a wave and, if you’re on a 50-foot wave, there’s a giant ramp. I always pictured myself being able to land a double backflip on a wave. I was actually having this conversation with one of my professional snowboarding buddies who grew up here on Maui. I was talking to him about how, in skateboarding and snowboarding, you can go and hit the ramp and practice anytime where you can not feel it one day and just wait it out. With big wave surfing, it is so hard to find the right ramp to go do it. Jaws was breaking the last few days and I ended up losing a jet ski on the rocks, because I was trying to do double backflips when I shouldn’t have been. I ended up wiping out and the conditions were heavy and a wave engulfed us and we ended up losing the ski to the rocks. You only get maybe two chances per session to get a good section in order to do this and, when you fall, you get really beat up. When you finally get up, hopefully your courage isn’t completely zapped. My main goal right now is I want to learn how to do a double backflip on a big wave.
Well, in 2018, when you got that wave at Jaws, where you did that huge acid drop, that was eye-opening for the whole world.
I believe that set the tone for your surf skate style on these huge waves. Nobody has ever done that and I believe that you’re on the forefront of leading this movement. How do you feel about that? You’re trying to progress on from what I’m hearing.
Yeah. It’s all about doing things that have never been done before and trying to push myself to a place that I never thought I could go. When you’re setting these big goals, on paper it sounds really cool, but it also sounds impossible. Since 2018, I’ve had that double flip in mind. When I did that acid drop, that was just the beginning or the progression of where I inevitably want to head towards. At a certain point, I got bored with just going straight down a big wave. That was the easy part, so how can I make it harder? The satisfaction is not going to come by showing everyone that I can do this. It’s more of the satisfaction that I did something that I didn’t think I could do, but I knew was possible.
“I’d rather use my skateboard to get my legs really strong or work on a type of turn. I want to go skate my ramp and try to get smarter about how I stay over my board. If I’m trying to learn double rotations on a surfboard, why not try to learn rotations on a skateboard first?”
Let me ask you, what is your favorite place to go surfing big waves?
For sure, it’s Jaws. The reason I say that wave over most other waves is because it’s like a giant skate bowl. It bends back at you so, when you do hit the lip, it can push you back into the wave. A lot of other waves are so hard to surf sometimes, and try to hit the lip, because they bend away from you so, when you do a big air, you’ll end up out the back. Jaws is the perfect wave to hit that section. The hardest part is not getting flung too far in the flats because you might be only 10 or 15 feet above the lip, but if you get shot too much to the flats, you’re dropping 50 feet to the flats and you might get hurt. It’s figuring out the right timing and the right line, but that’s what I love about Jaws because it can hold 80 feet and it barrels super hard. It’s like Backdoor Pipeline on steroids. It’s a giant bowl or like a huge ramp. Even if I’m not doing an air, I can lay out these turns and it does feel like when you’re skating in a bowl and you get that G effect where it flings you around and your head catches up with your feet. That’s what it feels like, but you’re on a wave and there’s very few waves that are like that. The only bummer about that spot is it doesn’t break all the time. I often have to fly to Nazaré to go practice because that’s probably the most consistent big wave. Between there and just trying to get super barreled, I really enjoy Pipeline because of the ultimate challenge of trying to paddle into these waves with 100 people. It’s super shallow and dangerous and someone is usually getting dragged in by the lifeguards.
Okay. You mentioned Nazaré. You won the title there and the team title there. Do you see yourself surfing there again?
Absolutely. I’m partnered with Lucas “Chumbo” who is an absolute maniac. Whenever I’m with that guy, any fear that I have goes away and it’s just 100% send, because that guy fears nothing and it’s really fun. That place will beat you up though, so the challenge is performance surfing, but it’s survival surfing too and just trying to make it back to the beach. If we can bring in an influence of maneuvers and tricks and big barrel riding, then I think we’ll come out in a position to win that event.
Do have you thoughts on any new types of safety equipment you might want to use in the water or the development of anything that might be coming in the future?
That’s a great question. Right now we use inflatable vests so, when you wipe out, you can pull this tab and an airbag inflates. That’s probably saved a ton of people from drowning. The problem with those is that you have to be conscious to pull it. Otherwise, it will not inflate. I think the future is going to have automatic inflation and a computer system on that device. If you get held underwater for more than 15 or 30 seconds, it’ll inflate on its own and then your friends can find you. Recently, I’ve started traveling with a defibrillator A.K.A. AED, because we want to try to mitigate the risk as much as possible. It only takes a couple of minutes for someone’s life to be teetering, so I throw that piece of equipment in the front of my jet ski or have it on the beach. I hope to never use those sorts of things, but it’s when you don’t have something that you probably need it. I’ve been of the philosophy that, if I do pass out, subconsciously I know how to keep my airway closed. The simple trick to that is tucking your chin to your chest and it blocks off your airway. That basically stops water from getting into your lungs. Training to be okay when you do pass out is probably more beneficial than relying on something. That being said, there is something really cool that’s at the forefront that’s coming out for big wave surfing right now. For years, we’ve been trying to measure big waves based on our shin bones, so how do you tell a big wave? You measure the length of your shin bone and double it all the way up to whatever size the wave is and it might be 70 feet, but no one really knows right? So there are these guys that have come out with this drone that sends a signal to the water and it can tell how big the waves are based on sea level. Their first tests were astonishing. I’ve always been of the opinion that surfers have been riding bigger waves than they are given credit for and that’s just classic surfing. We’re like, “That was a 50-foot wave!” or “That was 25-foot Hawaiian!” You have to double it and I guess surfers have never been good at math because we can’t get a 360 or 540 right when it comes to the aerial trick. [laughs] What they’re finding is that the waves that no one was riding, the insiders, were 70-feet tall. This is science where the drone is up and it’s bouncing an actual signal to the earth. I think people have been riding 100-foot waves already. The amount of times I’ve looked at a 10-story building, and I’m like that’s 100 feet and I swear I’ve been caught inside by a wave that big before, but how can I prove it? That sort of technology is coming into the fold for safety as well. I was messing around with a drone a couple of years ago that could physically pick me up out of the water and get me into the air and carry me to the beach. The problem is battery life. The batteries for a massive drone like that can only last for seven to 10 minutes and that’s not enough time to go out, find the surfer, drop down, pick them up and take them out. Jet skis can’t always get you in the lineup, so I think, eventually, if we’re pushing the limits farther, we’ll have drones with a tracker on us and the drone will stay hovering above you and, if you fall, a rope will come down and you can grab it and it’ll pick you up and take you out of there. I think we’re still a ways away from that though.
“That’s what I did with Jaws. I got the nerve up to go out when I was 16 and it was the most terrifying moment in my life. At the same time, there is always so much opportunity in terms of experience, and the waves that I could ride are so much better than anything else I had ridden. I went down that path of thinking, “Every time it breaks, I’m gonna go out there.” It’s been a really good relationship so far.”
Technology hasn’t caught up to big wave riding yet, but some of the technology may be able to help in the future.
Absolutely. That’s always been big wave surfing’s problem. You’ve had these cowboys that have wanted to go out and do these things but are limited by their time or the equipment under their feet. There’s no doubt about it that guys like Greg Noll or Buzzy Trent or George Downing, the legends of big wave surfing, had they had what we have today, they probably would have been pushing the limits so much farther than what they were capable of at the time. Back then it was the real deal because, even on what we consider medium size big waves now, they had to swim in and there was no one coming to save them. For me, as soon as the invention of the inflation vests happened, I got one. Shane Dorian basically drowned at Mavericks, so he came up with that idea to have an inflation vest so that kind of sparked new life into big wave surfing. With big wave surfing, the limits are pushed and then it plateaus and interest falls away and it becomes this underground sport again, and then, all of a sudden, someone will come up with something and it comes back up. We’re on a downturn right now as far as interest in big waves, until someone lands like a double on a big wave and the door is open that shows it is possible, or there’s more technology to go out and ride big waves safely. It needs a little bump to keep the momentum going for the sport.
Do you think there are other waves on the planet that nobody has ridden that could be as big as Nazaré, Jaws, and Mavs and are you interested in looking for them?
Absolutely. I think this a lot about Nazaré. With Nazaré, the first time it was surfed big was a little over 10 years ago. You’re like, “That wave has been under everyone’s noses in Europe in a Westernized country.” If there are waves that big right in Europe, imagine the coastlines of Africa or South America or the Pacific. I forget how big the Pacific Ocean is and how many islands are out there. Even in Hawaii, we’re on the main part of the islands, but these islands stretch nearly to Japan. There are these tiny atolls past Kauai and all that way. There’s no doubt in my mind that there are giant waves and possibly better big waves somewhere else. I’ve heard of other waves that are bigger and taller and heavier than the waves we are riding today. I’ve seen videos of spots and I’m not at liberty to say where they are. To be honest, I don’t even know where they are, but a few of the veterans and the legends of big wave riding have found it. When they showed up to this place, they realized that they weren’t ready for it. They weren’t prepared for that kind of wave, so they left. It’s fun to know that there are waves out there that are still yet to be ridden because they’re too big and too gnarly. I want to be the one to ride it one day, not for any other reason than I just want to ride a big freakin’ wave. We only get to ride so few big wave spots. There’s this other spot in California that hasn’t been surfed in years and it’s called Ghost Tree. It’s on Pebble Beach, where they do the PGA Tour. If you go out there, you’ll get arrested because we need jet skis and it’s a marine reserve. No one can surf there because the last time it was surfed someone drowned because no one saved them. There is kelp so, if you fall, you’ll get tangled in the kelp and it can hold you down. I don’t know, maybe you have to wear a knife or something so you can cut your way out. I’ve been wanting to surf that wave. At a certain point, you might just say, “I’ll just paddle out there. I got my inflation vest. Just don’t fall.” That’s the classic saying Laird and those guys came up with back in the day. Just don’t fall and all your problems are good.
What are your thoughts on Mavs?
I love Mavericks. I go there every time it breaks big. There was one point where we were going there every week. I’d fly home and then a new swell would come up. I’d be like, “Okay, shoots, we’re going back to Mavericks.” The level of big wave surfing can go up so fast and so high when you have consistent big waves. Mavs is one of my favorite big waves to surf. I consider the top three right now Jaws, Nazaré and Mavericks. Those are the big dogs that separate themselves from the rest. Mavericks is just cold and there are sharks. You always see a Great White at some point and I just think, “If there was no wave out here, no one would be out here. Why would you ever be this far out to sea?” It’s a surprise that no one has been bitten by a Great White there. It’s probably because there’s like 70 guys out there surfing when it’s 50-feet tall.
Crazy. It’s the truth though. Okay, I want to ask about your surfboards. Who has been making your boards and how long have you been working with them?
I work with this shaper here on Maui. His name is Keith Teboul. The great thing about Keith is that he can make any board on Earth and that’s where our partnership really began. Here on Maui we have windsurfing, kite surfing, and every type of board and every type of boardsport on the water and he can make everything at the top level. That was my first connection with him, and then it evolved. I was like, “Let’s start working on really big wave boards.” I was working with some of the best big wave shapers that already exist, but the difficulty I was finding was that, for where I wanted to go, I needed the boards to change. Most shapers are pretty stuck in their ways and they have their philosophies and theories. The boards work phenomenal, but I needed equipment that was completely different than anything anyone had, so I started working with Keith to develop his big wave gear. That’s where we came up with some of the best big wave tow boards and the best big wave paddle in boards and they’ve started to look really strange but, functionally, they work superior. We took the design concept from paddle boards and stand up paddle racing boards and we added a five-inch thick nose that has this beak, kind of like this triangle to it, and that doesn’t allow water to get on the deck. When you’re trying to paddle into a big wave, a gallon of water is eight pounds and you have gallons of water running across the deck of your board as you’re plowing through chop, and that’s slowing you down, so I wanted to get rid of that. Also I realized I was starting to get more confident and do bigger air drops at Jaws, especially paddling in, and my board would start to do the Jay Moriarty thing, and the nose would go up and I’d land on the tail and slam down. When you slam down, you’d often get bucked off like you’re on a bull or something. I’m like, “How can we make the board ride flatter through the air so I can levitate down as I drop down?” You’re riding a 10-foot board and there’s all that wind on the bottom. What I’ve discovered, with that nose, is that the air was foiling itself around smoothly and releasing, so there wasn’t turbulence. On the deck of a surfboard, when it’s really flat on that long of a board, a lot of drag occurs and that’s why the nose always wants to lift up. I noticed, ever since I started using that board when I did that airdrop, the board would stay level and I could land in transition and keep bottom turning. I can almost land in a turn. So all my boards now have this weird super beaked nose and then it foils down to the thinnest tail possible. We make the tail as thin as the Future Fin box allows us to. When it comes down to the board, it’s a windsurfing rocker because windsurfers can turn really good and go really fast. I’m like, “Well, that makes sense. Let’s do a windsurfing rocker on our big wave guns.” Then we ended up doing some windsurfing bottom contours and messing around with the edge. We have a really sharp edge towards the fins and and we put a rail v. That actually works as a fin to hold the tail in, so it doesn’t bounce and skip to the side. When it comes to fins, I like riding quad fins because they’re faster than a traditional thruster on a big wave gun. When you’re on a big wave gun, you’re just trying to go as fast as you can because the board is so big and it’s already kind of slow. We ended up putting a windsurfing style fin where the front fin is more vertical and smaller and the back fin is bigger, but really swept back. Those fins allow you to go really fast and the smaller front fins don’t create too much turbulence for the back fin. It’s increasing speed and getting rid of the drag. That’s my big wave gun. One of the biggest revelations I ever had was getting rid of wax. I stopped using wax in big waves because I’d end up surfing big waves up to 12 hours straight. I might go by the boat and get some water or a burrito or something, but most of the time I’ll just surf all day straight and wax will get slippery after a few hours. I remember having a huge air drop at Jaws and landing and my foot slipped and I face planted and got scorpioned and pressed to the bottom and I was so over it. I ended up taking a page out of my stand up paddle book and I put deck pad on the whole deck. If I go to Mavericks or Jaws or Nazaré, I can surf for 12 hours and never have to put anything on it or take anything off because the consistency is the same. On a normal short board, a full deck pad would be too heavy, but my big wave boards weigh up to 19 to 20 pounds, so weight is not a factor.
“I was messing around with a drone a couple of years ago that could physically pick me up out of the water and get me into the air and carry me to the beach. The problem is battery life. The batteries for a massive drone like that can only last for seven to 10 minutes and that’s not enough time to go out, find the surfer, drop down, pick them up and take them out.”
Okay. I got that. So you’re using pads. Have you ever tried using salt or sugar decks?
The sugar decks are unreal, but you just get too rashed up and it tears through your wetsuit because you have to lay down. On my feet, it would be fine. I have callous feet from spending a lifetime running on rocks. The pads are nice because they’re soft and you can have really big traction bumps so that your feet can kind of catch. The pads are nice too because you can just lay other boards on top when you’re traveling and you don’t have to worry about wax on the bottom of your board. That was the best solution that we’ve found thus far.
What do you like better, EPS or regular poly boards?
When it comes to short boards for small wave performance, there is a characteristic to polyurethane boards with the wood stringer and the pop you get on the upper two feet of a wave. It feels very skatey when you can pop an ollie on a skateboard and it feels the same on a short surfboard. When I started riding more big waves, I realized I love the feeling of carbon fiber and having a flex pattern that only goes one direction. This is where Keith Teboul is the master because he’s spent 30 years making windsurfing boards out of carbon composite construction, and he’s figured out a way to get it so the carbon will flex in one direction, but it won’t flex back. When I had my big polyester giant guns, what I was finding is, if I was going really fast and I hit huge chop, I’d get this thing wobbling. You could feel it slowing down a little bit. There would be a little bit too much of a delay for how big the board was. If you hit really big chop, it would stop you a little bit. I found if I could have a slightly stiffer board made of carbon fiber where it can flex up but not back down, I’m going to be skimming the water more. I’d rather skip into the air and fly and reconnect because the board is shaped so well and continue then having to plow through massive chop on a big board that is wobbling. My preference has been a carbon fiber and we ended up adding bullets for weight because bullets somehow are cheaper than bb’s.
Wow. That’s incredible. Okay. As your daughters start to grow up, would you want them to surf or be big wave riders?
Yeah. I think every dad’s dream, if you’re a surfer, is you want your kids to surf. Fortunately, I’ve done that with my parents, so I understand when it’s a good time to push. My wife and my family are all into surfing, so it’s only going to be natural for them to get into it, without being a dad that’s all pushy and like, “You gotta surf because I surf.” I think the trick is going to be for them to be surfing with kids their age who love surfing. They love the water already, so I think they’ll be super into it. If they want to surf big waves, I’d be stoked. If they don’t, it doesn’t bother me. Surfing should be reserved for those that really want it. No one should be forced into it. There are all these girls coming up now that are so gnarly on big waves. Those girls are going to be the heroes to my little girls, so I’m just gonna let the natural course run. Ideally, I want them to do every sport under the sun because I want to go surfing with my kids. I got to grow up with a couple of my friends that were twins and seeing the relationship they have in big waves is rad because when one is on a jet ski and one is surfing, they can communicate, like telepathically, and they know what each other is thinking. My girls are identical twins, so it’s already like seeing double. When the time is right, we’ll get them surfing and and I’m sure they’ll be the ones dragging me out of bed before school like, “Come on. Let’s go surf.” That would be one of the best days of my life, second only to the day they were born.
Will you bring home a skateboard and let your kids play with a skateboard too?
We’ve already put them on a skateboard with the help of dear old dad. I’ll hold their hands and I’ll stand them on my Carver board and I’ll go down the street with them and they’ll be giggling and smiling. I think they love the feeling of the wheels just hitting the pavement, and that vibration under their feet. We always joke about starting them young. The problem with getting them into surfing right away is we’re in this big body of water and it’s unrelenting and scary. Skating is in a controlled environment, so we can go in a 10-foot radius one direction or the other and, if they fall they just fall on the wood floor at the house. I think putting kids’ heads underwater and them having that claustrophobia or not knowing if they’re coming up, that usually keeps kids from surfing. I’ve been fortunate enough to watch so many of these young kids learn to surf. In about five years, when these girls are on the World Tour, their skating background is gonna be the reason they’re World Champs because they’re going to these wave pools and they’re not hitting the same section every time. They’re skating the ramp next to the pool too. If these girls are skating, from the beginning, and that goes into their surfing, they’re gonna be doing stuff I could probably never do. I think skating is the ultimate foundation for high performance surfing. At least skating, we can surf the earth for a little bit before we surf the oceans.
“I think skating is the ultimate foundation for high performance surfing. At least skating, we can surf the earth for a little bit before we surf the oceans.”
That’s cool. Do you have different boards for Jaws or Mavs or Nazaré, and how many boards do you have for each place?
Yeah. When it comes to big wave boards, I use the same board at Mavericks and Jaws. My tow board would be 13 pounds and it’s a high performance shape. It’s basically like a Sunset Beach board that’s compressed and narrower. It’s about 16 and a half inches wide and probably an inch and three quarters thick, and I go between 5’9” and 5’11”. When it comes to Nazaré, it’s a whole other ballgame. At Mavericks, I love using a 9’4” paddle in gun. That’s the magic number for me no matter how big Maverick gets. It’s because, at a certain point, the board won’t fit into the upper third of the wave. You need a board that’ll fit and 9’4” somehow fits in the top third of a 50-foot wave, so that’s a great size, especially with that new nose I was telling you about That nose is five inches thick and the 9’4” paddles like a 10’4”, so that’s good. When I go to Nazaré, the smallest board I’ll use out there is 10’4” and that board feels so small out there. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the wave moves faster than any other wave I’ve ever been to. The wave at Nazaré is probably moving 30 or 35 miles an hour. A wave at Jaws is probably moving 25 miles an hour and a wave at Mavericks is probably moving 20 miles an hour just because of the Continental Shelf slowing it down. At Nazaré, I’ll use a straighter rocker and a faster board and the board is weighted heavier, up to 22 pounds. The gun is around 21 or 22 pounds, so that’s the difference. At Nazaré, you’re probably pushing 55 or 60 miles an hour on drop in on one of those really big waves. The fastest that I’ve gone on a big wave gun and it’s not even the biggest wave I’ve even ridden out there, but it was the only one that I was recording the speed data, I was doing 42 miles an hour on a 10’4” board at Nazaré. I was like, “If I’m going that fast on this, I’m doing 60 at least on these tow in boards, because I’m going way faster.” At Jaws, I’d probably be pushing on my paddle in guns at 35 miles an hour or 40 miles an hour, max. When I’m towing, it’s probably like 40 or 45 at Jaws. At Nazaré, it’s like a moving mountain. If Jaws is like Backdoor Pipeline, and Mavericks is like a slab wave. Nazaré is like a mountain that decided it wanted to move.