#5 : Kai Lenny

#5 : Kai Lenny
The Edge
#5 : Kai Lenny
Episode 5 June 24, 2021 00:57:08

Hosted By

TAG Heuer

Show Notes

This time on The Edge, a podcast by TAG Heuer, we dive deep with waterman Kai Lenny, pro surfer and eight-time SUP World Champion, whose first name means “ocean” in Hawaiian. He talks about being a product of his environment and wanting to protect that very same environment, as well as what it feels like to be a professional surfer who travels the world catching big waves. Your host is Teo van den Broeke, Style Director at GQ.  Watch out - this is The Edge.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:01 On a small scale, we can just work on our local communities, which is the best thing we could possibly do doing beach cleanups and preserving our own fisheries and our own environment. Speaker 2 00:00:21 What gives us our edge and how do we go beyond it? How thin is the line between taking part and tipping into victory? What inspires those moments of rare advantage that change the shape of a race, a winners born or made, and what happens when things go wrong or when it all goes right. Welcome to the edge. We'll be talking to people operating at the very edge of possibility from athletes to actors and from artists to entrepreneurs. I'm your host te van and BRCA watch out. This is the edge, a podcast by tag Hoya. Kai, thank you so much for joining us here at the edge. Uh, it's great to have you here. Um, uh, and you are in Hawaii at the moment, right? Speaker 1 00:01:20 Yeah. Well, thanks for having me on it's early in the morning here in Hawaii. And, uh, I know for you guys on the other side of the planet, it's probably later at night now. Speaker 2 00:01:30 I think we found kind of a, um, what's the word? Uh, uh, a reasonable medium. <laugh> where both not, it's not too bad. It's like, it's like the late afternoon here. Speaker 1 00:01:39 Um, it's so funny how, uh, how it's like you guys are going to sleep just as we're waking up over here. It's just, it's wild. Totally, Speaker 2 00:01:47 Totally. Listen. We've got a lot of questions to go through. I've got a, I've got a lot of things I wanna ask you. Um, and it's exciting to have you here because obviously you are the, one of the leading lights, if not the leading light inuring around the world, you're considered by many, um, as the ultimate Waterman, uh, which is a new term to me actually. Um, you're an accomplished big wave surfer, kite surfer, towing surfer, fo surfer, windsurfer paddle border. Please forgive me if I've got any of those terms wrong. <laugh> as I imagine, I probably have, um, and all under the age of 30. Um, so there are lots of places to start this conversation, but as good a place as any, uh, to begin is with your name now, understand that your name, Kai has an affinity with the water. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Speaker 1 00:02:31 Yeah, so my name Kai and Hawaiian means ocean, and I think it's appropriate name since my life revolves around being in the ocean. And I absolutely love experiencing all that it's able to produce from the tiniest waves in the world to the biggest waves, to the strongest wins, to no wind, it's the ultimate playground. And it's probably the only free space you can do, kind of whatever you want in the world without somebody telling you otherwise. Um, because you know, there's just so much area to, to play in. And being here from Hawaii is, uh, incredible because, you know, we of course get insane conditions on the daily and that's, what's led me to doing all of these water sports that I get to do. So I'm very fortunate for sure. Speaker 2 00:03:22 Just, just to stay, stay on the name for a second. Obviously. I, I mean, your parents were into windsurfing, right. But I mean, they didn't know necessarily that you were gonna be into war sports when you little, so it's kind of like a fortunate, um, fortunate connection. There's a serendipity to it, which is quite nice. And I also understand that your middle name has some kind of connection. Can you talk about that a little bit? Speaker 1 00:03:44 Uh, yeah, so, um, well, you know, my parents were avid ocean lovers. They love to do all the surfing and, uh, basically do everything that I'm doing now. But when I was, when I was growing up, um, I don't think they put any expectations on me becoming who I am today. Um, I'm pretty sure that they just wanted to hopefully have a son that would love to go in the water and both myself and my younger brother do my middle. Name's actually Waterman as well. And where that comes from is my great grandmother's maiden name on my dad's side. So had she have been my great grandfather or had she, uh, you know, had the name been able to continue on my last name? Probably would've been Kay Waterman, but, uh, you know, it's just funny because I never intended to, I would say I was never forced to become a Waterman, but I was, I I've kind of become one based on kind of my environment. You know, you're only you become a product of your environment and growing up here on Maui, that's just something that I became because all my heroes were here. The biggest waves in the world are here and it's just really interesting to see how things evolved and how they continue to go too. Speaker 2 00:05:04 Mm. I mean, it, it would be good to talk a bit about Maui, cuz obviously, you know, it's, it's an extraordinary place to be raised and to kind of spend your childhood and now obviously your adult years, um, what, describe it to us? Like what, what, it's the place you consider home? I assume? Um, what, what's it, what was it like growing up there and, and what is it like living there now? Speaker 1 00:05:25 Uh it's you know, it really is one of the ultimate places to grow up and to live. I mean, as a professional athlete that spends the majority of his time in the water, I feel like there's nowhere better because it gives me all the range of conditions and it's, you know, it's also home, born and raised here. It's, you know, you have kind of like a connection to the place. I think you were born, you either wanna get out there entirely or you want to stick around and Maui's a good place to stick around. Um, you know, I think Maui has changed quite a bit since I was younger, but at the same time, it's very much the same. Um, the waves haven't really changed. Uh, the landscape hasn't really changed there's of course the constant ebb and flow of the sand on the beaches. Speaker 1 00:06:15 Um, more and more people are coming and living here, but the island itself is very big, so there is actual space. Um, but all that being said since I was 12 years old, I was traveling more around the world than I was spending time at home. And just until the whole pandemic hit, um, it kind of gave me an opportunity to get back to my roots here on Maui and spend a longer time than just two weeks at a time here. And, you know, I just realized there's so much places that I hadn't been on the island I was born on and that's pretty cool. So being able to search around and adventure and look for stuff, um, really just opened my eyes to there's so much left to find and adventure around here on the island. I was born on Speaker 2 00:07:04 What's what's been the most, um, surprising discovery that you've made Speaker 1 00:07:09 Well. So, you know, there's just so much, I've always spent so much time in the water. I would say I have the entire coastlines pretty mapped out yet. The mountains still are, I would say a little bit more of an unknown. I started doing a lot more road cycling and mountain biking and it was just like surfing on a mountain. We have a 10,000 foot mountain called ha ALA, which in Hawaiian translates to house of the, the sun. And then we have another set of mountains on the west side of Allen known as the west side of the west, uh, Mount mountains. Um, and over there in particular, there's just these crazy waterfalls that are 2000 feet high and just this beautiful forest that I had never been to until just recently. And you kind of just realize that, oh, all of this was here and I had no idea because you can't really see it from the coastline. Speaker 1 00:08:08 You'd have to be in the mountains to see it. It's very, they're very hidden, but they're massive. And just like those little things, um, were really eyeopening. And I think too, when I was going mountain bike and we were getting to the top of the mountain and actually just last week, it snowed up there, which you wouldn't believe it can snow here in Hawaii, but the mountain itself is 10,000 feet high. And it's just amazing because you could see everything from the big island. So almost all the Hawaiian islands with the exception of two, you could see the big island of Hawaii called Hawaii Cole lave, which is a smaller island next to us. Molokini Lena Moola kite. And then on a very clear day, you can see a wahoo, which is 150 miles away. And so just that is really unique and exceptional and cool and gives a bit of perspective <laugh> Speaker 2 00:08:58 Yeah, absolutely. One of the few plus sides to the pandemic, I guess. I mean, yeah. Touching on the thing that you just said about, um, the idea of being back home and kind of having everything that you need there in terms of what you do and your, your kind of, not your job, but your sport. Um, it's kind of interesting, cause I imagine for a lot of young people, particularly when they live in an island, um, you know, the idea is you have to go out and make your life elsewhere, but for you, you have all the materials. I mean the best materials in the world, right there on totally on your doorstep. That's quite an extraordinary privilege. Speaker 1 00:09:30 It is certainly a privilege because so many people long to come out here, either on the biggest vacation of their lives or they, you know, or they're attracted by the waves and the conditions. And that's what brings like the endemic companies, um, for the sports that I do. And then also attracts, you know, mainstream attention because, you know, Hawaii is still considered a mystical place and within the surfing world, um, it's really one of the best places on the planet for waves. And so to have one of the best big waves on the entire planet in my backyard is just a huge advantage because I'm able to apply, um, all the resources that I have here in my backyard to one of the best big waves. And you know, that being said, I think you're limited in, in growth. If you just spend your entirety here in Hawaii, doing stuff, I think it's important to go out and travel, you know, to do stuff that you wouldn't normally do, um, from visiting big cities, of course, and even to landlock areas. Speaker 1 00:10:36 Um, but then most importantly, chasing what's made you very popular, which is waves on other coastlines. Um, I would say one in particular that I always try to get to is Nazare and Portugal. I was gonna say, yeah, a big wave scale because it's completely different than the waves that we have in my backyard. And it serves as a new challenge and kind of a fresh perspective <laugh> and it's also fun to get away from home and go on an adventure with friends. Um, and I think people like seeing that, because maybe it's something they wouldn't do to go ride big waves, go on a trip for that, but it might inspire 'em just to go on a fun adventure with their friends, hiking or skiing or whatever, you know, it's, I think that's, that's kind of the, the, the fascination is you can do an adventure, um, on your own, um, with your, or with your friends. Um, but it doesn't have to be life threatening necessary. <laugh> Speaker 2 00:11:34 It's interesting. You'd said that there's this difference between the waves in NAZA and I guess in jaws and in, uh, Maui, but what is the difference, you know, for like a, for, for a surfing novice, for someone who doesn't fully understand, you know, the intricacies of the waves and the process, what, what would the difference be between those giants? How, how do you navigate them? Speaker 1 00:11:55 Oh, they experience surfing these different, big waves. I mean maybe on photos, they look similar besides the watercolor and, uh, but they're very, very different. Um, you know, they are both on the opposite sides of the earth and it's just classic that they would be, you know, completely different. Nazare really does feel like you're riding a giant avalanche and it's probably the fastest I have ever gone on a surfboard. Whereas, uh, jaws is like a small wave if it was blown up to a bigger scale. So the perfection of jaws is, you know, unrivaled probably for its size. Um, but each one is very different. I would say I take more of a snowboarding approach out at Nazare. Whereas at jaws I will take more of a surfing approach and okay, it's just, it's so fun to be able to completely change the way I ride a wave, which is very unusual, um, most of the time, but to get all the way over to Nazare in time for a swell can be very stressful considering it's a, at least 24 hour trip. And, um, it's always relieving when you can survive the waves out there and then take a minute to just take a deep breath and, um, enjoy the Portuguese coastline. <laugh> Speaker 2 00:13:20 <laugh> I mean, how so? Yeah, you must have to have a little bit of notice to be able to get out there. And then when the swell comes kind of, how long do you tend to have with it before, you know, it can, it can dissipate again. Speaker 1 00:13:31 Well, the most fascinating thing about being a big wave surfer is you just never know when something's going to happen. I mean, for example, you could plan a family vacation, a snowboarding trip, anything that you plan as a big wave surfer is guaranteed to be canceled <laugh> cause there will be a swell that'll pop up the exact time or just before or just after. And, you know, it's, it's like going to battle in a way you have to make sure all of your stuff is ready and that goes beyond just your mental and physical preparation, but you need jet skis, boats, um, airline tickets, you need support crew. You need to have, um, you know, <laugh> ambulances on call at times and you have to just be so well prepared and that this that's all you can really think about in those moments. So I would say my, uh, my responses on email and texts go down dramatically when it's big wave season <laugh> uh, just because I'm like just trying to survive most of the time and of course have fun. Speaker 1 00:14:39 Uh, but yeah, no, it can be crazy. You basically, a lot of times you don't know for sure if the waves are gonna be good until three days before, so I'll leave Hawaii late as possible just to ensure that it's gonna be best possible over there. Cuz you can imagine traveling halfway across the world and you show up on the coastline and it's bad. <laugh> I mean we've had trips, my friends and I have had trips where we've been halfway to Europe and then all of a sudden just turned around and come back. Wow. Because the winds come on or the swell just dies and it's like, you know, again, we're just trying to predict. And I think surfers in itself are me their own meteorologists for sure. We look at like all the websites and you know, all the algorithms, but you gotta, gotta have to make, you have to make a decision on your own. Um, and you have to be reading all the signs and collecting data in your head. Okay. Is this gonna be worth it? And you know, most of the time I would say it's worth it. And there's the rare few times where you get skunked, but that's okay. Speaker 2 00:15:43 Okay. So skunked tell me that, that means that you're kind of like, is it like the English word GT <laugh> yeah. Speaker 1 00:15:49 Well, I would say, uh, getting skunked is, is basically like, you know, a skunks are typically very stinky if they, uh, right with their flatless or whatever it may be called in that scientific term. But you know, for the most part being skunked means you show up someplace and it's just awful and you just don't get anything you don't, there's like no reward to your, to your travels. Um, so skunked is when the conditions are typically really bad. And if I please excuse all my surfer lingo on here, because no, that's great. We use it so loosely that uh, sometimes people are like, what are you talking about? <laugh> but I guess, um, most of the time other surfers kind of get the idea, but uh, sure. Yeah. Just hit me up if you want for me to explain anymore. Speaker 2 00:16:41 I mean, I mean it's hard for anything else. That must be a very expensive enterprise, particularly if suddenly it's like, okay, now we can't do it. I mean, that's mad, right? Is that prohibitive for people trying to get into the sport? Speaker 1 00:16:52 Oh, well, you know what it's, I think it's a rude awakening for a lot of people who try to get into big wave surfing. And you know, the reason why is because big wave surfing is extremely expensive. I mean, if you want to do it properly, I'm spending thousands and thousands of dollars for just a day. I would say anywhere from five to 10 grand per day. Um, if the waves are like, if it's the swell of all swells and you know, I spend the most here on Maui because I have the biggest infrastructure for it. Um, it's like my own miniature formula, one operation, obviously a lot less expensive than that, but you know, I have boat, I have three safety jet skis. Um, you know, you have all the boards you have to take into consideration, you have helicopter on call. Um, you basically have, there's just a laundry list of, um, people that I'm paying to allow me to not have to think about the consequences as much and just focus on the performance. Speaker 1 00:17:54 And it's something that, you know, you can get away with it much more cheap, but I, I don't think anybody can get away with surfing big waves for probably less than a grand. Um, wow. When, when you add up the boards and when you add up, um, having a safety, when you add up having the jet ski, you know, if you wanna do it right, and you wanna be the best ever <laugh> it costs money and it's just what it takes. And I'm happy to reinvest all of my earnings, um, back into what I love to do because regardless if I was sponsored or not, this is what I would wanna be doing just because it's so thrilling and exciting. Um, but you know, a lot of times, yeah, it's, it's not cheap. And, uh, you know, boards costs probably anywhere from like 1000 to 1500 bucks, depending on what it is made for mm-hmm <affirmative> and that goes on the rocks once and it's just into a billion pieces and then you gotta go pick it up afterwards. <laugh> Speaker 2 00:19:00 So you're not, you're not littering the sea. Um, I, I, I, I was gonna say, I mean, when I've listened to interviews with you, um, before the word fun comes up a lot with you and I get the impression that this, you know, it's a, it's a serious thing you're doing and you know, it's a dangerous thing that you're doing, but having fun is important. Right. And how central is that to what you're doing? Like the enjoyment of the thing? Speaker 1 00:19:22 Oh, absolutely. I think if I wasn't having fun and enjoying what I was doing, then I wouldn't see a point in doing it considering consequences are pretty gnarly. Um, I mean, for sure you can die doing this, um, but you can also get seriously injured, which I have and you know, you're spending a lot of money just to go surfing <laugh> and the reason why it costs so much is just because you wanna do it right. And you wanna come home and you wanna just make fun the focus of the entire experience. Um, but you know, it's, there's no other reason why I would do it. You know, you're not gonna get rich surfing, big waves it's for the experience. And that experience is fun. And, um, and, and I've seen things that I think many, many people will never see in their entire lives. And to me, that's pretty cool. Speaker 2 00:20:13 That's amazing. Um, in terms of, we, we touched on a few of the places that you love to surf, but, you know, for whatever reason, which is, and you've surf some extraordinary places. I mean, you know, you've gone everywhere from obviously Hawaii bit to Morocco, to the, um, to the Pacific coast of the us. Uh, what are your favorite, what is your favorite place to surf and, and why is that? Or what are your favorites? Speaker 1 00:20:37 Uh, you know, I think it just, it's really funny how I've been traveling since I was 12 years old around the world, and I've been so lucky to do that. And I, my experience is on an emotional level to now, it's just been complete changed just with growing older. And you know, now I'm 28 years old and all of a sudden it's like, wow, I've been traveling the world for most of my life, which is incredible. Uh, I think that it's like, what am I searching for every time I go to a different wave, sometimes it's like, I'm trying to search for the best, big wave in the world, try to ride one of those. And then another form of it is like, which I, you know, when you're younger, you don't really consider, but like you want to go to cool places where the culture is completely different. Speaker 1 00:21:23 And, uh, I feel like most of the time growing up, I was just so intertwined with the conditions. And now where I, I want the places I do wanna go, um, there's like more behind just the waves and it's kind of like the entire experience and that I think only comes with age. And, you know, when you're still trying to, I think you're digging deeper into to yourself. So like two places, I really wanna go back to that due to the pandemic I can is I wanna really visit New Zealand. Um, I just, you know, I just watched the Lord of the rings trilogy again. I'm like, ah, I wanna go, go explore that area. I know there's insane waves along with just hopefully finding a Hobbit somewhere, but no. Um, uh <laugh> and then also, you know, going to Japan, for example, that culture is just so different than here in Hawaii. Speaker 1 00:22:14 Even though we have a huge Asian community and a lot of Japanese people, it's very different culture and the waves can get insane over there, but they're also an island nation. Uh, and, and I'm just fascinated with that. Like, I'd love to ride a giant typhoon and ride 50 foot waves and then go eat sushi all night. You know, the sushi is a lot less expensive over there than it is here to get Japanese sushi here in America, or here in Hawaii costs a lot more. It's not even about the money, but it's just would be fun to go. I'd love to go in a restaurant, not know how to speak a lick of Japanese, but maybe come out with like five words. Um <laugh> but no, that's that I've spent a lot of time going to places in Europe going to, you know, the Canary islands and C Verde and, you know, Morocco and stuff like that. And they're just absolutely insane, insane zones. And that alone has always been an adventure. So, I mean, travel now has become a lot more, I would say about like the places I'm going versus just the waves that I'm chasing. Speaker 2 00:23:16 Amazing. I mean, it, it, with that kind of, um, shift in mind, obviously you are a water sports polymath, like, I mean, you literally can do anything and everything. Um, is there any, are there any sports specifically water sports that you haven't tried yet that you wanna do? Maybe something that's a little bit slower <laugh> perhaps, or is that not, I dunno, is that not where your head's at? Speaker 1 00:23:39 I think my head's always about going as fast as possible speed. I mean, I've always wanted to go in a fighter jet because I remember I was surfing out at Nazare and the waves were just giant. And I was thinking, man, this is pretty gnarly. Like, this is probably on the edge of like, what people would think is insane. You know, like the waves are 80, 90 feet and you see the 50,000 people on the cliff and you're like, oh my goodness. And then all of a sudden, the Portuguese air force come flying over the lineup and break the sound barrier and just like go a th like whatever, mock, whatever it is, mock two mock three. And I'm like, okay, all of a sudden that's grounded me. And I realized that's probably the coolest thing in the world you could do as a human is fly one of those fighter jets and go the speed of sound. Speaker 1 00:24:30 Uh, and then it actually was nice cuz it took the pressure off of surfing big waves. Now it's just like having fun cuz it was like, oh, this isn't really even that cool. So I mean, I think I've already missed the boat for flying those kind of things. Uh, but just to go for a ride, what you need. Um, and then I, I, it's funny, I take a lot of inspiration though beyond surfing sports sports, for sure. Like snowboarding I'm heavily influenced by for my big wave riding, but even sports like formula one and motor GP, you know, I, I drive my car to the beach, but I'm not racing cars nor am I riding motorcycles, you know, at insane speeds around corners. But those two sports for example, are very inspiring and then, you know, motocros is also inspiring to, you know, my windsurfing and stuff because it's like, wow, that's the tricks they're doing. I can apply to my windsurfing. Um, but you know, it's just, I try to take inspiration from all sorts of sports. I mean, I think everybody that I know as Speaker 2 00:25:31 Long as they're fast. Speaker 1 00:25:32 Yeah. As long as they're fast, I mean I ideally a perfect world I'd RA I would like to be as fast with just my body as like Bruce Lee, you know, you see, he can like play ping pong with numb chucks. That's pretty radical. I would love to do that. But I think that takes like a lifetime of training, which I think I'd rather put my lifetime of training towards surfing or riding waves at least. Sure. Speaker 2 00:25:58 Um, you just talked about Nazare. I mean, there's that amazing video. The, you, that kind of went viral right. Where you were swept up and swept away by this insane wave it's enormous wave. Um, the first question I guess is how do you get back in the water off something like that. And secondly, was it your scariest moment and if not, what was, Speaker 1 00:26:19 I mean it definitely that wipe out out at Nazare was, was not my scariest by any means. It was, I always call it just mildly and convenient when you get pounded by these big waves. I mean, I train for these moments. So, and knock on wood. I've never once felt like I was going to die in the ocean, um, or drown or anything. I always felt like, gosh, I just gotta go through this kind of experience and I'll end up out the end. And it is just kind of going through kind of the chaos of it all. Um, and that experience, I was toe surfing and it was the biggest day of the year. This is back in October, um, biggest day maybe ever. It was some of the biggest wave I had ever seen. And I'm like, I would love to take people for a ride with me. Speaker 1 00:27:04 So I held my GoPro with a pole Mount and I was just like, all right, I'm, I'm gonna try to get some, the craziest GoPro footage ever. And I love the GoPro so much, but it can tend to make the waves look a lot smaller than they are. Um, but I was like, okay, on a day like this, if the waves are a hundred feet, it's gonna have to look huge. And so I remember dropping into the wave and uh, the wave just kind of ate me alive because you know, you can only go if, if the wave goes sideways basically, or it doesn't do what you're thinking is gonna do, you can easily get taken out. And I thought, wow, this is the greatest opportunity ever, not one that I would volunteer to do, but now that I'm forced to do it, I get to film being caught inside by 50, 60 foot waves. Speaker 1 00:27:49 Okay. I see I'm gonna film the whole thing. And somehow in some sadistic way kind of gave me hope, like filming myself get absolutely destroyed was like something that I could latch onto mentally. Um, you know, a lot of times you're sitting there and you're all alone and it's crazy because the cliff is right there and you see 50,000 people who are comfortably sitting and watching this whole experience. And you're just absolutely getting annihilated. Like you're in, you know, a thunder dome or something, or you're in the Coliseum and your friends who are on jets skis trying to get to you. They're so close yet. So far away that you just can't get to you in time before the next wave. And you only have maybe eight seconds to take a couple breaths before the next wave hits you on the head. And the whole time I'm like, just don't lose the GoPro and just film everything. Speaker 1 00:28:43 And I just death grip it through that whole experience. And I I'll say when I got picked up after four waves, I was just so stoked. Not because I was getting saved, but because I filmed the whole thing, I'm like, yes, I got the footage and I purposely didn't watch that footage for like three or four days because I was like, I had the experience of what it was so clearly in my head. I didn't want it to like my memory to become what the video was, if that makes sense. And sure. So when I saw the video, I'm like, gosh, it felt way bigger and way earlier, but at least I was able to give people just a glimpse of what it's like, because, um, you know, I get to see things that my friends go through and I just always wish I, I was able to capture the, the sensation or the feeling, um, because I think people would be tripped out by it. Speaker 2 00:29:40 You've got a very engaged social media presence and social media following. Um, you know, you've, you've your massive on YouTube. You've got your own kind of TV show. Um, I, I, is that very important to you having, it sounds like it is having that connection with the, with the kind of view with your fans, I guess is the word. Speaker 1 00:29:59 Well, I think if I was, I mean, if I was able to do my job without having to do any of that, I mean, it would just allow me to focus far more on, you know, my sports. And, but the thing is, is being a professional athlete, isn't just going out and riding waves, it's, it's providing, you know, a return for your sponsors. It's the content that you're able to produce. And, you know, hopefully people stay interested if there's, if they're constantly watching what you're doing, um, that means you're doing something that's engaging. And I will say for sure, as an athlete, you have to be willing to adapt and do things that will continue that engagement with people. And hopefully they'll grow with you and wanna just see you grow in your sport and become better and better. Um, and for me, I, I really have always enjoyed filmmaking and kind of capturing what I'm doing since I was a young kid, just because I think it's, it's kind of another fun aspect and it's not necessarily to show off. Speaker 1 00:31:01 I would say a lot of, some of the craziest things I've ever done have not been captured on film or in photos or anything. And in some ways that's even better because it just lives in your own memory. But at the same time, you know, people are always so curious what it's like to get caught inside by a giant wave. What's the feeling like, and I have an opportunity to give people that experience. And on top of that, all, uh, it's just fun to see the look on people's faces when they see something that they've never seen before, and it maybe gives them, you know, kind of a joy or a rush, um, you know, to pretend to be caught inside. And you know, that footage that I shot at Nazare was actually shot in 360. So I have these goggles that you could actually put on and you could feel like you're sitting right there in the lineup with me. Speaker 1 00:31:53 And I think that's probably the best way to experience that. And I gotta figure out how to upload that. So people can do that. But, um, no, I mean, for the most part, it's just, I've embraced what it takes to be, be a professional athlete. And I just enjoy that process. Even, even at times, it could be very stressful to constantly be posting about what you're doing in a day. And I sometimes feel jaded because I think certain things are super boring to me cuz it's every single day, but other people find it super fascinated. Interesting. And I gotta try to really like think, okay, would they really care if I was showing them this? Or they only wanna see 80 foot waves <laugh> most of the time they don't even just wanna see 80 foot waves. They just wanna see what you're doing on your normal day. So I gotta like pull myself back, like Speaker 2 00:32:38 Not give too much, um, going back, going back to the surfing thing, we jumped hand slightly, um, the surfing thing, what you do, how, how do you get yourself in the zone? You know, we talked about the, the Nazare, um, moment, and you know, when you are, you were saying, you're watching these people on the cliffs and 50,000 people is a lot of people. It's like a stadium of people, totally watching you. How, how do you get yourself into that space where you are ready to face that, that wave, that challenge, you know? Speaker 1 00:33:06 Well, I was, I'd have to say the energy from on the cliff is so exciting because there's all these people who came down to watch and, you know, I would say they're equally as excited to see you get destroyed as they are to see you do something incredible on the wave. And I don't know that energy gets me really pumped up though. I would imagine it's what a rockstar feels like walking out on stage or any perform or walking out on stage with a bunch of people it's intimidating. But then at the same time, regardless if they were there or not, I'd be doing my thing. I just kind of focus on the wave, um, and focus on what I want to do on the wave. I'm less scared of what the wave is. The consequences of the waves are now, because I know I can handle it, but I don't want to go through that necessarily. Speaker 1 00:33:52 So I focus on my performance, like, what is it that I want to achieve out here today? Is it riding inside the biggest barrel? Is it doing big flips down the wave? It's doing big carves? Like, what is it, do I wanna ride the tallest wave ever ridden or do I just wanna ride 50 giant waves? Uh, so there's like small nuances and I'm always coming with new equipment out there that will give me a performance edge. And that way I can, you know, push that performance. And it sounds pretty simple, but most of the time that's like what gets me really thrilled and excited. And then once I'm riding those waves, you know, I feel like I kind of grow from five, seven to six, six, you know, <laugh>, it's just, I get so excited and comfortable and you know, it's something I've been training for since I was a little kid and you know, all those things, it really it's really a state of mind. And I would say it's not so much riding the waves that is important. It's how you feel by riding those waves. And I think people get that kind of natural high from climbing mountains or doing just about anything, the thrill of doing something it's just, there always feels like there's meaning to riding those waves, even if it's meaningless, you come in and you felt like you did something that was beyond just your, what you thought was humanly possible for yourself. Speaker 2 00:35:14 It's interesting cuz I, I think, you know, anyone, even if you're not a surfer understands that there's something about the sea, which is incredibly for the ocean about the ocean, which is incredibly magnetic and we do have this kind of primordial understanding and connection to it. But for you, that seems to be incredibly heightened. Do you, do you feel this kind of visceral pull to it? Is there something, do you feel connected to it in a way that perhaps others don't and is that part of you getting in the zone? Speaker 1 00:35:42 Uh, yeah, I think, I think I ha I mean, I couldn't imagine my life without the ocean. I think I would be probably pretty miserable because, uh, there's probably an unexplainable force that draws me back to it. Um, and you know, I would say there's a certain level of comfort in a way I do seek out those really gnarly rough conditions because to me it almost just spells out fun. Like, oh, this looks fun. I could do this. And I have such a comfort level, but it really, when I, when I'm pushed to the edge and I'm fearful or I'm scared in, in the ocean, that's when I think I get my best performance outta myself and I actually surprise myself at how well I can ride, you know, the, the water or do the sports that I wanna do. It's cuz I'm pushed to that edge and you're almost forced into the zone. So by riding these giant waves kind of feel like you're forced into the zone, you know, it's not like it's, self-inflicted cuz you're doing it, but you know, you have to it's survival at that point. And I think getting, if, if you're able to find yourself in a survival mode, um, you're able to access powers that you didn't know you had Speaker 2 00:36:54 Away from sport. Obviously you've done a lot of work, particularly in recent years about, um, related to the health of the ocean. I mean you're spending a lot of time in it, so obviously it's it. You can see why it would be close to your heart. Um, was there a specific moment that made you kind of feel like you had to do something, Speaker 1 00:37:11 Uh, you know what it was, it's always felt like a responsibility to take care of the place that I love the most. And just on the smaller scale, you know, it's picking up five pieces of trash. You see on the beach, um, here in Hawaii we get heavily affected, not by the trash produced here on the islands, but by the trash produced in Asia, in south America, in north America, you know, eventually it all reaches here. I can remember when there was the tsunami in Japan still to this day, there's, you know, parts of boats, there's, you know, Japanese, um, trash that is winding up on the beach and it's just astonishing that it could travel that far. And you know, unfortunately that's like, that's a tragedy that, you know, killed thousands of people, but then also litter the ocean with, you know, pollutant trash and you know, radiation and all that. Speaker 1 00:38:12 But um, for the most part it's like trying to figure out, you know, beach cleanups are great, but until you can figure out how to turn off the tap, it's like having a spoon and trying to, you know, take water out of a bathtub as the faucet's running. You know, it's just impossible. It's an uphill task. You're, you're kind of just, you're almost prolonging the inevitable, which is, you know, a trash filled ocean. So I spend a lot of time trying to think, how is it that we can stop? And in this day and age it's literally impossible, especially living on an island to get anything that's not wrapped in plastic. And I would say plastic's probably, you know, the biggest threat to humanity, um, and the survival of the ocean, then even climate changes. And the reason why is, cause I think with everchanging climates, we, humans can kind of adapt to that and we will, you know, move and you know, the climate will become very gnarly and you know, I would say maybe just a positive to bigger storms is it means bigger waves. Speaker 1 00:39:14 So at least we're having fun as the world's going into chaos. Right. But gosh, for, for, for the most part, for the most part, I think if plastic gets to a point where, you know, all the fish become, you know, that becomes ingrained in their DNA, cuz we're finding that fish tend to have like piece parts of plastic within their cells. Now, since they're eating it and it's going through generation generation that's cancer causing to humans down the line and one day maybe there won't be an opportunity to E eat fish and be like, remember back a hundred years ago when people could eat fish and not get sick maybe in 15 years, who knows? You know, so I mean all that being said, it's like, it's such a big problem that it really will take a collective. And my only hope is that they can, the continue use of plastic. Speaker 1 00:40:05 It just the process of making it changes. So it becomes edible fish food. So the person that can invent a plastic that fish can eat and digest and you know, be fed and maybe the oceans would start thriving even more and would be like, oh, just throw all the trash in because the fish will eat it. And they'll, they'll be healthy for them. I know people have worked on products like that, but again, it comes to how can you bring it to a mass scale? And it's just far more cheap just to make traditional plastic. Speaker 2 00:40:35 Yeah. I mean a be's belief though, doesn't it? That it, that it hasn't come to a point where that is something that we're doing on a mass scale. I guess it's a call out from Kyle Leny there people, someone, someone out there needs to make needs to make that plastic. Speaker 1 00:40:47 The hardest part is like with plastic is it's not like seeing a chips bag floating in the water is the stuff breaks down to like microplastics. And so from afar, you can't see it, but when you look close at the ocean, you'll see all these tiny pieces of plastic and that's what fish are eating kind of like fish food in a fish tank. And I just remember being out in the middle of the ocean between Oahu and Kauai, which is 90 miles across and we were dragging a net and we pulled up the net just to see how much plastic was out there. And it was like, you're in the middle of the Pacific ocean, the deepest blues it's nearly purple the water cuz it's so deep. And you're just, there's so much plastic just floating on the surface, but you couldn't see unless you looked really closely and you just realized my goodness, like this is outta control and it's one person couldn't make a difference. Speaker 1 00:41:43 It would have to be a collective of the billions of people. And you know, within the society we live in everything's out of sight outta mind. So until it becomes detrimental to a billion people's lives, it probably won't change unfortunately. But on a small scale, we can just work on our local communities, which is the best thing we could possibly do. You know, doing beach cleanups and preserving our own fisheries and our own environment. Hawaii is definitely heavily based around the ocean. So if we can do our best to protect what we got here and everyone did the same in their neck of the woods, um, that's how you would clean up the entire ocean. I, I think it's too big of a problem for one person to undertake the entire world, you know, without people in communities just getting, you know, getting their hands into the garden in a way. Speaker 2 00:42:37 Absolutely. Um, car you, you started in your career. What is now your career? Um, I dunno if you knew it was gonna be your career when you were young, um, but you started very, very young. Um, what did that kind of level of focus and dedication that you had to apply at that point? What did it teach you? And did you feel like you missed out on anything that your peers were doing or, or I guess were they doing what you were doing? Speaker 1 00:43:02 Uh, well, you know, it's, I think the growing up here pretty much any kid that starts doing water sports wants to become a professional at it, especially I was growing up in an era where kite surfing and windsurfing were kite surfing was exploding, but windsurfing was at its peak and um, big wave surfing was just becoming more and more explored, um, at these big waves like jaws and, you know, I would say action sports as a whole was becoming mainstream popular. Like it had never been before. And that was, I got to see that all firsthand, my heroes weren't, you know, comic book heroes, like we see on the big screen today, but they were actually people that were riding these giant waves or winning these events all in my backyard because ma was a Mecca for most of these water sports. I felt like it was just inevitable that I was gonna become that because I loved the sport so much that I just needed to see how far I could take it. Speaker 1 00:44:08 And a lot of my friends felt the same way. And still to this day, I would say I have friends that have, you know, made a successful career out of being a professional water athlete. And you know, now it's a lot more difficult to manage considering the space is, you know, it's not as popular as it once was. I mean, maybe it's popular with a scroll, but it's not popular in terms of, uh, you know, like the industry was back in the day. Um, but I think I, I always knew that I wanted to become a professional athlete, um, because I was always such an active person. And if I wasn't a professional athlete, I would've wanted to make movies because it was a way to see action, you know, very visual and I liked to do it with my body. So, you know, I think my whole life was always gonna be surrounded by how I could spend time in the water and the easiest way to do it all the time is to become a professional at it. <laugh>, Speaker 2 00:45:02 Uh, with, with that in mind, what advice cuz you know, a lot of people listening to this podcast are gonna be kind of landlocked people, um, who don't have access to the ocean like you did, but may have a kind of active interest in water, sports sites surfing. What, what advice would you give to those people a about kind of getting into it, B getting over their fears? What, what, what, what would you say to them? Speaker 1 00:45:25 I, if I, if you wanna get into surfing and get into the water, I would say it's just go for it. And don't have high expectations because surfing is something that takes a long time to get really good at, I mean all water sports. It's like, it's not like the typical day. Like it's not the typical get an adrenaline fix really quick. Um, you know, just with a swipe of a finger on social media, you know, that dopamine rush, it's like you have to really earn the experience and surfing can be really difficult. So you, I would say break it down into, you know, the funnest parts of surfing is actually learning surfing and you only figure that out once you are good at surfing <laugh> you're like, oh, if only I could relearn how to surf because it's the most monumental feeling, learning how to surf. Speaker 1 00:46:15 Um, and when the sport of foil surfing emerged, it was gave veterans surfers the opportunity to relearn how to surf. And the hydrofoil is basically an underwater airplane that could lift your board up in the air and you can glide above the surface. And when you glide above the surface, you feel like you're flying on a cloud. And so that experience for people, you know, I would say really enjoy the experience of not being good because you, all of a sudden it'll click, you'll get what they call the surfing bug, where all you will wanna do is go surfing and experience that. And then you just you'll be getting better so fast. And once you get to a high level, getting better is a lot more difficult. It's like smaller increments. Um, but don't rush into surfing big waves too quickly because you could have a bad experience pretty fast. Speaker 1 00:47:04 You wanna be able to take baby steps. And I always, when I was a kid, I always had goals on waves that I wanna write. Okay. You know, I wrote an eight foot wave today. That's amazing. That's why biggest wave in my life so far, I would always say so far because I knew how to write a bigger one. And then it evolved to like, oh my gosh, I wrote a 12 foot wave today. And it was only not for me to announce the world so much as it was just to announce to myself like, all right, I did this, oh, I made a cutback, oh, I hit the lip, like having small goals. Every time I went in the water to accomplish and chase after. Um, and sometimes too, if it's a crowded conditions or if the waves aren't good, the goal can be just getting wet and feeling the ocean for a half hour to an hour. You know, I was, I, I remember being told as a kid, that three waves make a session. So if you go out there and catch three waves, there's your session. You know, that's a goal to have, I'm gonna catch three waves, even if they're terrible, I'm gonna catch three waves <laugh> and then I'll have a session. Speaker 2 00:48:04 Okay. I'm revealing my land lover status here. There's um, there's a kind of narrative around surfing. Uh, that's very connected to sharks. Has that been overblown Speaker 1 00:48:16 If there's salt in the ocean, there's sharks in them. Right. And I mean, I sharks are probably the least of your worries when you're surfing really. I mean, you're more likely to get a thin cut or hit by your own board or hit by somebody else, um, swept out to sea than you are like to have a shark interaction. I mean, it's extremely rare and of course it does happen, but the way you avoid those situations is by being very aware of your surroundings in your environment. And there's of course there are certain places where, you know, okay, this is, you know, sharks live here and, you know, okay, if there's been a big rain here in Hawaii and you know, the river's broken and there's brown water coming out, those sharks are gonna be attracted to that river because all of you know, the dead animals that are coming, their scent is coming down that river, they're gonna be attracted to that. Speaker 1 00:49:08 And then you're in murky water. So it's about picking, picking the places you go to. You know, you don't have to worry about it nearly as much obvi at all just about in Europe, but in Hawaii it's like pretty easy to avoid. And you know, sometimes you could have just a freak experience where you see a shark, but then being calm and aware, you know, sharks are like, I would say, they're kind of like, um, aggressive dogs when they're looking at you, if you just face them and you kind of get in their face, they'll just kind of stare you down and a dog might bark, but for the most time they, they wanna sneak up on you. Um, and so as long as you're always facing them, they're not gonna, they're not gonna like attack you. Um, and most of the time surfing it's when you don't see them is when that's, when it's not great. Speaker 1 00:49:58 But I mean, I'm kind of rambling on about it, but you're more likely to get hit by a car than you are to even see a shark. So, um, keep that in mind. Um <laugh> and then also just like, yeah, it's, it's extremely rare, but the media loves to play it up on it because it's, what's more scary than, you know, something that wants to eat you and you can't see it coming and your humans are the slowest creatures in the ocean. So easiest target. Fortunately they don't like the taste of us. That's why they only take a nibble. And usually the nibbles is, ah, worse enough, but you never see somebody get devoured. Usually they taste it's like tasting like cat poop or something for us. It's like, oh God, that's horrible. Like spit it out. You know? So, um, I, I wouldn't, I wouldn't go into surfing fearing sharks. And if you do, you can overcome it. It's just by surfing. Speaker 2 00:50:56 Um, ki I have two more questions for you. Um, the first is you were, uh, two years ago, you were inducted into the surface hall of fame. Do you feel like, kind of with the energy and the dynamism that you bring and the kind of breadth of sport that you engage in, do you feel like you've changed surfing? Speaker 1 00:51:17 Uh, I don't know if I've truly changed surfing. I'd like to think that I've maybe just inspired people to look at surfing a little differently. Um, you know, I, I've just been participating in these incredible sports that most of them already existed. Um, but I think what I try to bring to light to people is that, you know, surfing's not about what board you're riding, but you know, just the art of riding a wave, you know, that is surfing, be able to ride a physical wave, most waves. We can't even see some we can hear, but surfing waves is the only wave we can physically ride. And that's what I think like makes surfing so special. Um, and, and I think, you know, it's all condition based if you live someplace and you know, it's not like Hawaii and you can't surf a small surfboard, grab a stand of paddle board, grab a foil, grab a wind surf for a kite. Speaker 1 00:52:15 It doesn't really matter as long as you're riding waves. And then, you know, what I really love about the ocean is it's just outside of society's bubble, where there's almost a whole different set of rules that, you know, lawmakers aren't making <laugh>, you know, it's just us that are, you know, kind of regulating ourselves. And that I think is really important for people, um, to experience, you know, as an example, um, you know, just taking turns, catching the wave, if you can figure out whose like turn it is to catch a wave, then you're, you're doing a good job. I would say, being aware of your surroundings and that's being aware of your surroundings and also riding waves and having fun. So, um, surfing is I think great for not only just the experience, but for, I would say communities Speaker 2 00:53:05 In our first episode of the edge, uh, I, I interviewed Patrick Dempsey who obviously started out as an actor, but he did a 180 on his career path and decided to go into most sports quite famously. And he became a race car driver, successful race car driver. Is there something that you would eventually, that you maybe could see yourself to that's completely different to what you do now? Speaker 1 00:53:28 Um, I mean, right, as of now, no, I don't think there is, uh, anything. Um, I mean, I think the only coolest, the, the only thing that I would maybe dedicate more time to is like become an astronaut and go to space or something, you know? And I just, I just wish Mars had water on it, like, like an ocean, because I would love to go surf there <laugh> but maybe after, um, our friend Elon Musk, terraforms the entire planet there'll be an opportunity, but it'll probably be long, long after I'm gone. Uh, so, um, no, I don't know. You know what I think I'm doing probably one of the, you know, there's very few things I think on planet earth that is, uh, will be a lifetime pursuit from the day you're born to the day you die and that's surfing, surfing something you can do for the rest of your life. Yeah, sure. The waves and the conditions may change through that time, but it's not, it's not a sport so much as just a way of living. And I want to chase that, you know, I wanna surf until the day I die. I mean, if, even if I just like fall asleep on my surfboard, hopefully it'll just be in a giant barrel or something. <laugh> Speaker 2 00:54:45 <laugh> um, you are in Maui now. What's what's next? What have you got coming, coming up? Speaker 1 00:54:52 Uh, you know, where I'm coming into the tail end of my season here and, you know, just praying that we get some giant storms out in the Pacific or Atlantic, so I can go ride some more big waves because there's really no feeling like riding a big wave, but you know, all that training from the summer before, you know, is paid off, I'm pretty much injury free as of right now. And I just wanna continue getting better. And I do feel an urge to maximize each experience that comes in now, uh, each opportunity. And, you know, on today's note though, as soon as I'm finished here, I'm gonna jump on my road, bike, go do some altitude training to open the lungs up, love it, get the legs flushed. And then I'm gonna test some new surfboards down at the beach with my, one of my other pros surfing buddies. And then if the wind comes up, I hopefully will utilize the wind and maybe go wind surf, kite surf, or wing foil. Um, but it's all conditioned based. So that is just kind of a rough outline. And then, um, you know, just continue to work with the people around me to make better and better equipment. That'll realize my full potential. Speaker 2 00:56:02 Kyle Lenny, you are officially the superhero of surfing. It's been such a joy speaking to you. Um, thank you for taking the time to join us at the edge, um, and hope to see you in the flesh soon. Take, take care. Thank you so much. Uh, Speaker 1 00:56:15 For sure. I can't wait. We'll get you out there. Speaker 2 00:56:19 <laugh> thank you for joining us at the edge. A podcast by tag Hoyer. Don't forget to subscribe on Spotify, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. The edge is also an online magazine. Go to magazine dot tag, hoy.com for more articles, interviews, and photo series that bring together our love of watches and our desire to push ourselves to the edge of our limits. I'm your host te van BRCA until next time, keep an eye out. This is the edge.

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