Kai Lenny Is Set for Even Larger Waves—and Fatherhood

March 7, 2022

Earlier than dawn, Kai Lenny and a gaggle of the world’s most famed big wave surfers take off on a pack of jet skis from the Port of Nazaré in Portugal. They’re headed towards a colossal swell combing the Atlantic, its power concentrating on a subsurface canyon simply offshore that’s turn out to be well-known for producing the biggest surfable waves on Earth. Lenny has flown midway across the globe from his house on Maui to take his shot at discovering and driving the world’s largest wave. We’ve adopted Lenny from Maui to the Nazaré lineup, watching the scene unfold on-screen within the second season of his Purple Bull collection Life of Kai, which was launched in full on the finish of January.

At Nazaré, hundreds of spectators are perched like a colony of seagulls alongside the cliffs and iconic lighthouse at Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo. Nice blue pyramids stand up from the ocean towards the sky. Kai Lenny is towed behind a ski. He builds velocity down the face of a wave, unsure which path to take. He asks his driver—then releases the rope.


A shirtless Kai Lenny smiles for the camera with his arms crossed
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He’s accelerating down the slope, then the height collapses, the imploding whitewater careening down. Unable to outrun the oceanic avalanche, Lenny will get clobbered. His POV digicam goes darkish.

Lenny resurfaces within the frothing aftermath. The clock begins to tick. He’s caught inside, a rag doll in a maelstrom, as one wave after one other comes crashing. He should stand up to every to keep away from drowning within the North Atlantic—ready till a ski can attain him.

“You’ve bought to calm down, however stress-free is difficult to do when the entire world is crumbling on prime of you,” says Lenny, narrating looking back. “You attain a sure level the place you possibly can’t really feel anymore. It’s simply static.”

Two minutes and 9 seconds. That’s how lengthy Lenny waits till a driver pulls him from the vortex.

“It’s a consequence of driving these waves,” Lenny says. “You’ve bought to pay to play finally,” Lenny provides, as he pulls himself into the rescue sled. “And I’ve gotten away with so much.”

Two minutes is a complete lifetime bobbing within the Nazaré seashore break. It’s an expertise most individuals would name it on, and stroll away to search out an alternate pursuit. However Lenny heads again out to the takeoff zone, spending the remainder of the day dancing with the giants of Nazaré. In spite of everything, that is simply the primary episode of Lifetime of Kai, Season 2.

Kai Lenny float on a surfboard in the ocean
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The Purple Bull collection follows the day-to-day exploits of probably the greatest water athletes on this planet via the winter of 2020-2021. Whereas Lenny’s ability in different ocean realms similar to windsurfing and paddleboarding are simply as spectacular, the present largely focuses on his private quest to be the best big-wave surfer in existence. The collection illuminates the dedication, assets, and close to catastrophes he should endure to achieve his athletic targets. As an viewers, we trot the globe with Lenny from Nazaré to honing aerial maneuvers in Bali and discovering all-time circumstances at his house break of Pe’ahi (Jaws).

The lifetime of Kai Lenny hasn’t gone on pause because the cameras stopped rolling. Lenny was married just lately to his now spouse Molly Lenny, and the couple predict twins. Because the 29-year-old strikes into his third decade and a brand new season of life, we sat down to debate his present, balancing the calls for of his profession and a rising household, and naturally his love of the ocean.

Kai Lenny rides down the crest of a giant wave.
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Males’s Journal: What do you hope an viewers takes away out of your present Lifetime of Kai?

Kai Lenny: Hopefully not feeling like, “Oh, I can by no means try this.” Clearly there’s an leisure facet, however I really like when individuals get impressed by the issues I do and exit and do them. They usually see it’s not solely highs. There are lows alongside the best way. I’m identical to you—I’m a standard particular person. However my superpower is motivation and drive towards one thing I like to do. If anybody has sufficient ardour and motivation to go towards what they love, they’ll completely do it. Very first thing I’d say to remove from the present is be entertained. Hopefully that may encourage you to do regardless of the ardour is that you simply like to do and go for it 100%. Don’t let any velocity bumps alongside the best way gradual you down.

Outdoors of the ocean, what’s one thing you possibly can’t stay with out?

My spouse and my soon-to-be youngsters. Second to that, with out the ocean, I don’t know what I’d do. My entire life, the whole lot I do, is surrounded by it.

Is there a broader connection in your life between ocean and household?

My brother and I had been despatched down this trajectory and felt the connection to the ocean due to my dad and mom—each of whom got here to Hawaii within the ‘80s to satisfy their ardour of windsurfing and browsing. They inevitably stayed, met one another, and had us. We didn’t actually have a selection rising up. You’re a product of your setting. At any given second, my dad and mom can be happening to the ocean after they labored. My brother and I’d be down on the seashore. We had been principally residing within the water, and as soon as the browsing bug bought us it was over—we had been those dragging them to the seashore. My total household surrounds the whole lot we do with going out within the water and having fun with the ocean. We’re positively water individuals. It’s in our blood.

On this newest season of the present, you mentor your brother as he grows into his personal house as an enormous wave surfer. How does it really feel to have the ability to share the expertise with him so publicly?

My brother’s all the time been the silent warrior, and he’s all the time been immensely proficient. Once you experience huge waves, you turn out to be nearer to whoever you’re driving these waves with as a result of it’s so intense. He’s in these heavy conditions. Typically I kick out after towing him into an enormous wave, and all I can hear is the roar of individuals from the channel and the cliff. And I’m like—”Oh shit, don’t fall, please don’t fall.” To see him come out on the different finish together with his arms within the air, like he simply bought the wave of his life, that’s nearly extra rewarding than getting the wave myself. I’ll bear in mind his wave greater than my very own. As brothers, we’ve gotten so much nearer. He’s considered one of my favourite individuals on this planet to be out within the water with, so I look ahead to each session. Many individuals find yourself residing separate from their households simply by advantage of residing some place else. We’re simply very fortunate that we get to do all these cool issues collectively.

Kai Lenny takes air while riding a big wave
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What are a few of your common rituals or routines we don’t see on digicam?

How a lot I’m stretching—and likewise visualizing what I need to do. I can’t be on the water on a regular basis. There are different obligations and it’s a must to let your physique recuperate. After I’m recovering, I’ll placed on a film and stretch in entrance of the TV. And I’ll be considering in my head, “What’s it I need to work on? How do I would like my physique to react after I get again within the water?” I’ll placed on previous movies of myself driving, or replay contests that encourage me. In order that might be taking part in within the background whereas I’m visualizing what I need to do subsequent. The toughest battle for me is taking relaxation days and permitting my physique to recuperate. However it’s actually key to coach in different methods so the physique can restore itself.

You talked about a key phrase—visualization. Are you able to inform us extra about its significance to you?

I’ve learn that your thoughts can’t discern between doing one thing in actual life or doing it in your head. An train I’ll do after I’m on an airplane is put music on. As a set off. I’ll discover music that actually motivates me and places me into that place. I’ll be capable to truly get myself bodily shaking or sweating as a result of I’m considering of one thing that’s so terrifying. Like driving an enormous wave and doing a maneuver in a selected method that I’ve by no means completed earlier than.

Concern of the unknown is often the scariest kind of concern. So by the point the massive waves return and I’m in a position to experience them, I really feel like I’ve already completed it 10,000 occasions. Now I simply should do it in actual life. I believe individuals can get higher by visualizing of their off-time. As an alternative of watching social media or TV, simply sit down and discover one thing that triggers you, and places you into that place.

Kai Lenny rides toward the base of a big wave.
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Routine and consistency are sometimes very important to success. How do you obtain this?

By being very clear with my intentions. Additionally, you possibly can’t simply exit and do what I do on any given Sunday. It’s so condition-based. Being adaptable within the second has been key. That phrase, adaptability, might be one of the essential issues I’ve had to determine. Often after I’m the least prepared, or the least comfy, is when the largest waves arrive. Like Murphy’s regulation, something that may occur will occur. So it’s about with the ability to change course—and likewise taking the upper street at occasions when issues aren’t going your method…actually with the ability to suppose clearly and never fear concerning the outcomes of now, however the outcomes for the long run.

We watch you are taking some main falls on the present. It appears inevitable, however how do most of them happen? Is it a misstep or a component outdoors your management?

Everybody has their day, and everybody has their off-day. You might put together and do the whole lot proper, and the day comes, and the whole lot simply goes the other way for no matter motive. Massive waves are the right alternative to study a life lesson. Typically all of your onerous work, the great karma, the whole lot you’ve ever completed, it pays off. Different occasions there’s struggling concerned. There’s dropping your jet ski, there’s getting injured, there’s happening the rocks, there’s having to save lots of someone.

It’s actually intense, and generally traumatizing, however if you happen to maintain an open sufficient thoughts, you’re in a position to take the teachings. I realized extra from these hardships than from the awards or accolades. Flip it on its head. Say, ‘Hey, it is a check, and the way nicely am I going to do proper now? Let me do my very best, as a result of that’s all I can do.’

If you happen to go away nothing else on the desk, and also you do the whole lot in your energy, then there’s nothing to be upset with. Some seasons I received’t even fall throughout huge waves. It tends to occur whenever you begin pushing your self outdoors your consolation zone and into the world of the unknown. The wins solely get sweeter due to the losses, and also you’ve bought to know the best way to take your losses such as you take your wins.

A smiling Kai Lenny walks along the beach holding his surfboard.
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You’re typically requested about concern on the water. What are your largest ones off it?

Considered one of my largest fears just isn’t having sufficient time to do the whole lot I need to do. As an alternative of feeling debilitated by that and placing a lot strain on myself to attain, I simply take a second and pause since you even have much more time than you suppose. It’s the way you focus your time and power. The scariest factor I’ve needed to overcome is considering too linearly. Considering extra freely offers you the chance to do extra in a shorter period of time—and really feel much less constrained.

As one of many world’s best huge wave athletes now approaching fatherhood, how are your views and targets shifting or rising with this new section of life?

It’s solely given me extra motivation and extra readability to do higher. Now I’m not driving only for myself, however I’m driving for my spouse and youngsters. There’s a deep down energy to attempt to develop and be a greater man and do larger and higher issues. A part of what makes me my greatest is doing what I really like, and what I really like doing is driving huge waves. I foresee myself within the subsequent few years changing into higher than I ever may have imagined due to the grounded place I’m coming from. To have the ability to go house to a spot with loads of love, I believe my browsing is just going to get higher due to it. I’m going to get pleasure from what I really like much more, and life goes to be completely that a lot richer and extra compelling.

Does changing into a mother or father change your view of risk-taking? Is your skilled pursuit nonetheless to experience the largest waves?

Simply because you’ve got youngsters and also you’re married doesn’t imply it’s a must to be danger averse. If you happen to love what you do, why would you ever cease? I believe a primary instance for my youngsters and everybody round me is that whenever you actually love what you do, you’ve bought to essentially embrace it and go for it.

I do the whole lot in my energy to be prepared, and also you by no means know what may occur. I really feel when it’s our time, it’s our time, no matter what we attempt to do to keep away from it. Typically in our quest to keep away from the inevitable, it finally ends up occurring quicker or comes sooner. Hopefully my youngsters might be pleased with their dad as a result of they’ll clearly see I’m doing one thing I genuinely love. And once more, what’s extra motivating and highly effective than the love of your youngsters and the love of your spouse. So far as danger, what I’ll do to mitigate it’s practice more durable and be smarter and extra calculated in my method.

Within the present, you point out giving 12 hours a day to browsing. Do you see your self recalibrating your time commitments now?

It’ll take time to regulate and determine that out, however I do suppose that doing one thing each waking hour doesn’t allow you to get higher. In the end, I believe it’s all about discovering that stability inside your self. I’ll positively be placing my household first, however on the similar time, I believe they’ll be eager to push me on the water as a result of I’ll most likely be driving them loopy on land. And I’ll simply be a greater dad after I’m again. A greater dad, a greater husband, after I’m stoked and on the water. Plus it’s the best way I pay for the whole lot in our lives, so I’m going to work. Fortunately I really like what I do.

Watch all the second season of Life of Kai



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