by Corky Carroll
With the big Vans U.S. Open of Surfing set to pounce on Orange Counties most famous surfing spot, the Huntington Beach Pier, from July 27 to August 4, the eyes of the surfing world are upon us. One of the more prestigious of the events that go along with the big competition is the annual induction ceremony for the SURFERS HALL OF FAME. This years inductions will take place on Friday, August 2nd at 9 A.M and will be held at the Surfers Hall of Fame Plaza on the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, under the statue of the great Duke Kahanamoku in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport.
The three honorees for 2019 are. NSSA director, Janice Aragon, incredible all-around waterman Kai Lenny and local legend Sam Hawk. Last week I told you about Janice Aragon. Today I want to talk about Kai Lenny, and next week I will finish up by covering Sam Hawk.
It’s hard to describe Kai Lenny without saying that he is probably the greatest “all around surf waterman” of all time. This is a short list. The only three surfers I can think of that truly fit into the discussion would be the late great Mike Doyle and big wave king Laird Hamilton. There are people that have excelled in more than one facet of surfing, but I can’t think of anybody who has excelled in ALL of them. Other than Kai Lenny. This dude can do it all. World Class big wave and small wave surfer, longboard, shortboard or any board. World Class Stand Up Paddleboard surfer and racer. Same for Windsurfing, Kite boarding, Skim boarding, Boogie boarding, Prone paddleboard racing, Foil surfing and any other kind of surf related activity known to man. Probably a few that are not even known yet, the guy is that advanced.
O.K., when I say, “World Class,” I mean with the elite of the elite. He wins stuff. Seven time Stand Up Paddleboard World Champion. Winner of the Molokai to Oahu paddleboard race. Runner up in the Professional Kite Board World Championship. It goes on and on. And here’s the kicker, Kai is only 26 years old. His parents put him in the water near their home on the island of Maui when he was less than a week old. Both of them were water people and had moved to Maui to be a part of the Windsurfing and Surfing culture over there. Kai was doing it all before he ever had his first nap time in Kindergarten, blowing minds in all sizes of surf in his early teens and now standing almost peerless in his mid-twenties. It’s just crazy how good this kid is.
SURFERS HALL OF FAME founder, Aaron Pai, calls Lenny “one of the most progressive and amazing big and small wave surfers on the planet.” Followed up by, “We are so stoked and honored to have Kai becoming a part of the Surfers Hall of Fame, it’s a thrill of all of us here at Huntington Surf ‘n Sport.” Lenny follows both Mike Doyle and Laird Hamilton into the SHOF, along with other amazing all-around watermen such as George Downing, Mickey Munoz and Rabbit Kekai.
I have been a fan of Kai for a number of years although I really don’t know him, other than briefly meeting at one of the “Battle of the Paddle” events in Dana Point where I was an announcer and he was racing. I started seeing videos of him surfing big waves at “Jaws,” on Maui. My first thought was, “Wow, this kid can really surf. He is not just a SUPer.” And I do not mean that as a knock on SUPing at all, just that I was surprised at what a great prone board surfer he was as well as being the great SUP racer that I had seen at the BOP. As time went on I kept seeing more and more footage of him doing pretty much everything. Shredding small surf on a shortboard and equally shredding monster surf doing tow ins. One of my favorite videos of him shows him jamming off the bottom and up into the lip on a monster, like zillions of feet, wave at Jaws. He explodes through the lip and free falls a few stories down the face of the wave, lands it and races it out the end. One of those “WOW,” kinda deals. The dude is just a really great surfer, PERIOD.
Stay tuned next week for my take on Huntington Beach’s own Sammy Hawk. And plan on showing up for the induction ceremony on Aug 2nd, its free to the public and a totally cool event.