To celebrate the launch of our website, we caught up with Kai Lenny to hear all about his ventures into the foiling world and his thoughts on the future of our growing sport!
You have grown up surrounded by the surfing pioneers and saw tow foiling around Maui many years ago, when did you realise foiling had the potential to change the way we surf?
Back when I was around 8 years old and the foil was unveiled to the north shore, Maui, by the strapped crew, it blew everyone away! The whole thing seemed out of this world, flying and surfing together, best thing ever. Back then the concept was very exclusive to those riding giant waves because the idea was to ride the biggest waves ever ridden. Also snowboard boots were difficult to swim in and the foil weighed 30 lbs. My Dad and Uncle got a foil from Dave Kalama and I was able to try it when I was 9 years old in boots that were way too big!
When you started to develop surf foils with Alex Aguera, what was your first foil session like?
First session was putting a racing kite foil on a SUP and paddling into waves. That was sketchy! But it was fun enough to want to explore it further. The first downwind run I only got off the water twice and maybe for 100 yards, the bigger wing worked way better and by today’s standards it is still small. It’s been amazing to see how much it has evolved and see the performances go up with it.
Why do you think foiling as a sport has grown so quickly?
Most of the world doesn’t have as great of waves as Hawaii, and even then it isn’t good all the time. Foiling makes terrible surf feel epic. All of a sudden the entire world is pumping, and the conditions no longer hinder high performance riding. That’s why I love it, I don’t travel anywhere with out my Foil! I hope more people use the sport to enjoy the ocean and find their perfect empty surf spot.
You rub shoulders with a lot of pro surfers, what’s been the response from the pro surfers to foiling?
Just about every top pro surfer I know is into foiling now. I think it’s because it feels like catching the surfing “bug” again, it is the best feeling ever and with a foil you catch it all over again.
How big can foiling grow as a sport?
Foiling is intimidating because of the foil itself, so how main stream it goes is difficult to say. The world for riding behind boats inland is huge, and I believe it should be in every core surfers quiver for when the waves aren’t great or too small. In some ways how cool is it we are able to fly the oceans, lakes and rivers like a bird soaring over waves. I feel like we know something the rest of the world can’t even comprehend.
I think it should find a place in surfing as it is a very pure form of wave riding. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too. At least we’re doing it and loving it! But anyone that tries it loves it and joins the club. I cannot imagine the sport ever going away, it’s way too much fun. It’s one of the only ocean sports I have ever witnessed to have attracted the best surfers on the planet first.
What changes do you think we can expect in the next generation of foils?
On the foils I’m riding my goal is to make them feel like an extension of surfing. Less focused on balancing in critical parts of the wave and more laying down deep lines like snowboarding in powder. The foils are and will continue to get more efficient so riding smaller wings to go faster and yet still pump super well is the future. A large range in all conditions from small to large to ripples on a lake or swells on the ocean.
Wind wings have been a great addition to foiling for a lot of riders and the sport has blown up in a little over 6 months. Is there a hidden potential for the use of a foil that hasn’t been explored yet?
The whole wing thing is a great addition to the sport. It’s the easiest wind sport to learn, fitting somewhere in between kiting and windsurfing. In only 6 months this part of the sport has really evolved quickly on performance and equipment. I’m excited to see what the next year or two brings! Things are going to get crazy.
What’s a day in the life of Kai Lenny look like?
A day in the life of me, is deciding what is it I’m going to do on the water depending on the conditions. Summer months consist of a lot of foiling, and especially downwind riding. The perfect cardio training for big wave surfing. In the winter the ultimate is spending the whole day at Jaws riding big waves. There is nothing quite like getting barreled out there but going the fastest I have ever gone foiling is out of this world!
You have obviously inspired so many riders to try foiling, what still inspires and motivates you to continue to raise the bar in foiling?
For me it’s knowing there is still so much to do on a high performance level. I love chasing that, more aerial rotations, faster turns, developing better equipment to perform and pushing my body and gear to go downwind faster. That gets me so amped!
How was it to get back out foiling Jaws again recently?
Foiling Jaws is insane, the speed and power is radical. There is no place you can really test big wave foils but in big waves. Moving at those speeds and negotiating those vertical walls keeps me on my toes while riding a 120 cm mast!
What’s next for your foiling?
My Goals are to ride the biggest waves in the world, do double rotations above the lip, and smash the Molokai 2 Oahu record.
Hurley, Tagheuer, Redbull, Nike, GoPro, KT Surfing
Once again a huge Mahalo to Kai for taking the time to chat with us and giving us some insight from someone who is so at the top of the foiling game!