Kai Lenny vertelt ons waarom Stand Up Paddle OK is!
The Maui waterman muses on life with the oar and its acceptability in surf culture.
Jaws, Peahi, Maui, six in the morning. Dawn just broke and with it, a lump appears on the grey-blue mist of the Pacific Ocean. Heartbeats soar, lenses focus. The bump becomes a wall and the wall becomes a wave. Of the few surfers in the water on this doomy Tuesday morn, one man seems to want the XXL wave the most. He’s on a strange, almost cumbersome watercraft and is sitting deeper than the pack. He paddles into the wave — literally, as in with a paddle — gets barrelled and makes it. The coffee crowd erupts.
That man is named Kai Lenny and his watercraft is a stand up paddleboard.
When the boat-like behemoths first became popular, “core” surfers scoffed. And their scoffing had some merit. Stand up paddleboards seemed to spark the interest of the non-surfing crowd. Think: the type of people who go skiing in the Alps for vacation. As they grew in popularity, once quiet beachbreaks became busy and bustling with danger — you think giving an inexperienced surfer a 12-foot board is a good idea? And so the SUP got the reputation of being kooky, the tool of the tools who could never thrive as a real surfer.
But did you just see Kai’s wave?
Kai’s 22 years old, born and raised on Maui. Or better yet, he was born on Maui and raised in the ocean. He could swim since he could walk and the ocean has always been his playground. He surfs, fishes, kiteboards, etc. And though he’s one of Maui’s best on a traditional surfboard, Kai has become one of the best stand up paddlers in the world. He can huck the tail around like Julian Wilson and, obviously, will go on waves that would intimidate the most hard-nosed surfers in the world. He is an anomaly. And here’s what that anomaly thinks about the world of SUP.
On switching between a surfboard and stand up paddleboard:
They’re both really fun. Often times, I’ll start out catching a few waves on my regular surfboard and then switch to the stand up. On the stand up, you can see the wave a lot earlier than everyone else and you’re obviously already on your feet. It’s easier, so it’s good to show people that you can surf too.
It’s cool because the first time I took a stand up out there was in 2010, when only a tiny crew of guys were surfing it. So I know most of the guys out there already and they’re all my friends. I feel really at home at Jaws no matter what I’m riding. Still, I stay super respectful on my SUP and if someone is in a good spot, I’ll let them go. And everyone has been more supportive of me out there. Last swell, guys were actually telling me to go get my SUP cause they wanted to see me get a few on it.
It’s rare, especially in bigger waves. But sometimes in smaller waves, people give you eyes or lip about it. Whenever they do, I go in and grab my shortboard. And it’s really funny because I catch way more waves on a surfboard anyway. I think the disdain for SUPs stems from the fact that they make it easier for some people to catch waves that are beyond their ability level. And you might hear a story about somebody making a mistake with one and it’s a really big board to make a mistake with. It’s definitely a “The person is more dangerous than the gun” scenario.
On opening your mind:
I think stand ups are a really good way to improve your surfing. All the best young surfers on Maui are SUPing now. It helps you learn how to use the rail, draw different lines and become more patient on a wave. And when you hop back on a shortboard, you feel so loose and powerful. So why not?