Why Kai Lenny’s ready for Red Bull Storm Chase

Kai Lenny has ridden some of the biggest waves on earth – can he handle one of its biggest storms?
Kai Lenny windsurfing at Ho'okipa
Throwing buckets © Erik Aeder
By Josh Sampiero

Kai Lenny has never competed in any previous edition of Red Bull Storm Chase – but it wasn’t supposed to be like that.

The do-it-all Hawaiian waterman was a shoo-in to be invited to the first round of the last event, which took place in Australia in back in 2013 – but life intervened and he couldn’t make it.

Now’s he back in the line-up, and he has his fingers crossed he’ll be rigging up to ride some winter fury.

We caught up with Kai to find out what’s on his mind as the storm season approaches.

Make sure you tune in so you don’t miss the action when the big one hits.

Grabbing a few waves in the backyard

Kai, you had a good excuse for missing last Red Bull Storm Chase.
The timing was just terrible – the storm conflicted with an event that was unmissable in my pursuit of a SUP surf world title in 2013 – I’d been working all year towards that goal, and it was a tough decision.

It's all about the edge in bottom turns

Kai Lenny windsurfing at Ho'okipa
Digging in a rail on the bottom © Erik Aeder

These days you’re a do-it-all, do-it-every-day waterman. How does storm windsurfing fit into that?
It actually doesn’t – it’s the most extreme version of windsurfing there is. You don’t run into these conditions often. But aspects of being a waterman come into play here. You have to be a good swimmer. You can be far away from your gear for a long time. It’s a big ocean out there!

Lately your focus has been on SUP. Can you still handle high winds?
It was just blowing 55 knots here on Maui for a week – that’s about the kind of wind we will see during Red Bull Storm Chase. With the right equipment, sailing big wind isn’t that bad. 

You've been doing some cool stuff with the SUP!
Yeah – we've been messing around with some foils, and it's pretty incredible what you can do – it's a total magic carpet ride. 

No waves required 

Speaking of gear, what’s going to be in your quiver?
I’ll probably bring my best wave boards. I ride a 72-litre wave board, and I’ll probably bring a 3.0 and 4.1, and maybe a couple of bigger ones. The right choice will always depend on the conditions. If it’s a true storm, I’ll be on a 3.4 or a 3.0, and that’s small – the smallest sail I usually rig on Maui is a 4.1.

I was able to take part in the Aloha Classic windsurfing contest this autumn, so that got me some good time on the water with a sail in my hands.

A beautiful bottom turn

Kai Lenny aerials at Ho'okipa
Just a little punt © Erik Aeder

Do you have any dream location in mind for Red Bull Storm Chase? It won’t be Hawaii.
I’ll go against the grain and say somewhere on the East Coast of the United States when a giant storm comes in. There’s a lot of sick sandbars for giant waves, and big jumps.

What’s your contest strategy? Big moves, big waves, or both?
It totally depends on conditions. If it’s wave-riding based, I’ll rely on my Jaws experience and ability. You have to do everything really well to win. 

If the surf is XXXL, I'll definitely rely on big-wave experience at Jaws to help me out.

Just a quick drop in to Jaws

Kai Lenny surfing at JAWS in Maui, Hawaii.
On a gun © Brian Bielmann/Red Bull Content Pool

There are some storm sailing experts here – who is the toughest one to beat?
Philip [Köster], being a bigger guy, can hold down a bigger sail, and he knows how to handle high winds. I’m definitely more comfortable on starboard tack conditions, so that’s what I’m hoping for – then I can go really big.

But in a storm, you’re not only battling your nearest competitor – you’re battling the conditions, too. Any one of these guys can win on any given day. Sometimes it’s your day. Sometimes it’s not.

You scared, bro?
Every time I go windsurfing I get scared. It’s the type of sport and you can always go bigger or higher – I never feel like I’m maxing out my gear. That’s what makes windsurfing one of the most bad-ass sports around.

Stay tuned to the Red Bull Storm Chase Facebook to see when the contest goes live! 

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