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Surfing

Watch the Season 3 premiere of ‘Life of Kai’ on Red Bull TV

Kai Lenny's balancing act looks different in 2023, and his home life and performance goals are ready to reset.
By Beau Flemister
4 min readPublished on
Kai Lenny’s dealing with life and death situations…probably more than anyone in the big-wave community right now,” 11X World Champion Kelly Slater, aka the GOAT said. And when the GOAT makes a call of this caliber — it’s not hyperbole.
Such is the nature, however, of Kai’s work, what with attempting to ride the largest waves on earth at the highest level possible and all, but as we discover in Episode 1 of Season 3 of "Life of Kai," what makes that kind of work potentially more hectic might be — a family.
…Or does it?
Kai Lenny surfs at Haleiwa, Hawaii

Kai Lenny surfs at Haleiwa, Hawaii

© Ryan Miller / Red Bull Content Pool

With a new wife and the recent arrival of twin daughters, clearly, the stakes have never been higher when Kai’s pushing the limits. The glaring, pervasive question of “Will the boy slow down?” seems to hover and buzz about his head like a pesky insect. And sure, it’s fair question, 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,” said 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?”
Ridge Lenny and Kai Lenny

Ridge Lenny and Kai Lenny

© Marc Chambers

Shane Dorian, both a father and perhaps the world’s most respected modern big-wave surfer come 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 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.”
“I look to Shane [Dorian] as being the ultimate example of how I want to be with my family and my kids,” responded Kai. “When he started paddling into Jaws, he was already in his 40s and dominated to 50. It’s also realizing 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 heavy in their household.
Kai Lenny

Kai Lenny

© Marc Chambers

While certainly confident that a balance can be found, Kai 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,” said Brett. “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 realized 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.’”

17 min

Reset

Kai Lenny's balancing act looks different in 2023, and his home life and performance goals are ready to reset.

English +7

“I think the ultimate is when you can team up with your son or your daughter and can go get waves,” agreed Kai. “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 seeing 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.”

Part of this story

Kai Lenny

From kiteboarding and windsurfing to foiling and big wave surfing, Hawaii's Kai Lenny does it all and at an expert level.

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Life of Kai

Ride shotgun with Kai Lenny as he redefines what’s possible on the world’s biggest waves.

4 Seasons · 16 episodes