King of foiling: Kai Lenny

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Kai Lenny’s life is one endless cycle of water-time and big waves.

You’d be forgiven, because you’re probably right… There’s no-one else who’s pushing foiling into the public pantheon with more gusto and smiles than this guy. So of course we had to get an interview with him for the first issue of Foiling Magazine.

Hey Kai. You are a busy guy nowadays. Can you remember when foiling first began for you?

My first ever experience on a hydrofoil was back when I was nine years old, on the board my dad and uncle bought from Laird and Dave Kalama. We took out the jetski and after both of them tried it a couple times I was given a chance and instantly loved it.

The snowboard boots were way too big for me, and all the way up to my knees! But I made it work and the board became mine after a while.

Has the speed that foiling has developed over the last few years surprised you?

What I love most about the hydrofoil is the fact that it’s so adaptable to all these different water sports and enhances the riding experience when the conditions aren’t great for their traditional form. Foiling is so dynamic, since it transcends everything from little chops that you would ride downwind to being powered by a sail or a kite, all the way up to some of the biggest waves in the world.

Kai Lenny on a board foiling down a wave.
What I love most about the hydrofoil is the fact that it’s so adaptable…” Pic – Ryan Johnson / Kai Waterman Media

Have you discovered a few new spots in Maui which you wouldn’t have considered before?

When I first began to reimagine the foil as a small wave surfing device, instantly waves I had driven past for years became the perfect spots for foiling. It opened up a whole new world and now that I’m traveling around the globe.

It is an absolute must that I have a foil in my bag since the waves more often than not aren’t epic, and this amazing thing is keeping me on the water no matter what! Waves that weren’t on anyone’s radar are now popular spots. I love that they’ve been hidden in plain sight for so many years.

How do you see foiling in the surf in terms of the style, do you think tight turns and airs are the direction it is heading in?

The natural progression is going to be do everything faster, higher, and louder. Right now we’re only beginning to tap into what is possible with what we can do in the smallest of waves. I imagine different variations of rotations as well as doubles being common practice on waves that don’t even break.

With straps at first and then progress to doing similar manoeuvres without them. As far as turns go, it’s going to be about laying it on a wing and getting the wing tip in the air and leaving a huge fan of spray!

For the full interview, see: