New season, new challenges for Kai Lenny on Life of Kai
Big wave surfing legend Kai Lenny's balancing act looks different in 2023, and his home life and performance goals are ready to reset.
Kai Lenny, that icon of wave-riding ocean sports of every kind, is back with a new season of Life of Kai, the third in the series. As ever, viewers will be getting an intimate glimpse into Lenny's world and see what adventures he gets up to.
The premiere episode of Season 3 has hit the screens, and you can watch it in the video above. More episodes will follow in the weeks to come and you can binge-watch Seasons 1 and 2 as well as the new episodes here.
Now, back to that opening episode of Season 3. Such is the nature of Lenny’s work - attempting to ride the largest waves on earth at the highest level possible - that a family makes that kind of work potentially more hectic...
… or does it?
Lenny's life looks very different now in 2023 from how it was only a few years ago. He has a new wife and there's also been the recent arrival of twin daughters. Clearly, the stakes have never been higher than now when he's pushing the limits out on open water.
The glaring, pervasive question of 'will the boy slow down?' seems to hover and buzz about his head like a pesky insect. His home life has had a reset, will his performance goals also need to reset? These are fair questions to ask, but at the same time, is there a balance one finds on the tightrope wire between progression and wildness?
“What we do is insanely dangerous,” says Ridge Lenny, Kai’s brother and tow partner. “When you have your adorable kids at home, will it make you want to pull back on that one wave that before, you might’ve gone on?”
Shane Dorian, both a father and perhaps the world’s most respected modern big-wave surfer and Godfather of paddle surfing Jaws, had an interesting take on the matter...
“After having kids, I was more stringent in deciding which days to push it and which days not to. It became clear. I did, however, surf the biggest waves I’ve ever surfed after having kids. I think Kai really and truly loves the experience and the challenge and he’s out there for all the right reasons. And the only true reason you should be out there is because you love it."
Lenny says he looks to Shane [Dorian] as being the ultimate example of how he wants to be with his family and kids.
“When he started paddling into Jaws, he was already in his 40s and dominated to 50. It’s also realising that you can’t just stop doing something you love to do because something has changed. My greatest ride in big waves is yet to be ridden and I have until I’m 50 to go get Ride of the Year.”
The realness of what happens when one of those rides goes south, however, hits close to home with the Lennys. Dusty Payne, Maui’s first WSL CT competitor and Kai’s wife Molly’s brother, had a critical injury out at Backdoor Pipeline a few years ago. Slamming his head into the reef and nearly drowning, there was a point where Dusty wasn’t sure if he’d even walk again.
Luckily, he’s since made a full recovery, but the gravity of that accident weighs heavily in their household.
While certainly confident that a balance can be found, Lenny seeks a little inspiration from some fathers around Maui that have done a hell of a job at making it work, ones that have transitioned from 'Dads Who Charge', eventually to 'Dads Who Charge With Their Groms'.
One such dad is Brett Lickle, an original Strapped Crew member and innovator of tow surfing at Jaws and father of local charger, Skylar Lickle.
“For me, I couldn't be prouder,” Brett remarks. “Skylar is just going way past all my expectations when it comes down to the big wave surfing thing. I mean, when I got her into tow surfing, basically it was to have a partner out there and introduce her to something that I knew she would just love. I realised pretty soon on that it was not going to be like that because I think she was only about 14 or 15, and she was like: ‘Dad, I want to paddle Jaws, now.’”
Lenny agrees: “I think the ultimate is when you can team up with your son or your daughter and can go get waves. And when I see Brett and Sky doing it, it’s so rad. That’s what I want to do. Now that I have girls of my own it’s so exciting to see all the other girls stepping into the big wave realm out there, proving to everyone that they can do it. That’s what I want my girls to see as they grow up."
“At the end of the day, it all comes down to family. Sharing those experiences with the ones you love most – there’s nothing better than that. I want my girls to see me in my prime.”