We Spoke With Kai Lenny as He Took Notes at Natural Selection Revelstoke

Kai took it all in. Chad Chomlack//RB Content Pool

The Inertia

It doesn’t take a lifelong student of action sports to realize that Kai Lenny’s big wave sorcery is inspired by the world’s best snowboarders. Whether he’s busting frontside 360s mid-face on Nazare monsters, inverted kick-outs at Jaws or tweaking slob airs off the end section at Maverick’s, it’s obvious that Kai watches surfing’s kindred sport with more than just a passive eye. So it was no surprise to see him in the finish corral at Day One of the Natural Selection Revelstoke event, talking shop with pros and fans alike. 

I caught up with him for a hot minute on a break in the action before Nils Mindnich dropped into the East Side of the course and snapped us both back into spectator mode.

Okay, first impressions on Natural Selection here in Revelstoke.

I mean, I’ve been watching Natural Selection events pretty consistently. It’s a big inspiration for my big wave surfing. I watch snowboarding to get excited for big waves. So to actually be here in person and see my favorite riders and the amazing lines they draw and the big maneuvers, it’s inspiring. 

That’s number one. But just to see how easy they make this 45-degree cliff face look, they’re making it look fun. And I know it’s extremely challenging. So every line, it’s exciting because it’s similar to surfing where you don’t know what the wave’s going to do. And in this case, you don’t know what the riders are going to do. You see someone pick a new line and you’re like, “what’s going to happen?” It makes every run exciting. 

Hell yeah. Have you seen anything here you’re going to use?

I mean, I just love how they put together their runs and they utilize whatever they have below. All these pillows remind me of chops on a really big wave. And I like how they can link it up and be really fluid. So doing a big turn and then popping a maneuver, another big turn, doing another maneuver, and even doing some sketchy cliff jumps. I could see that’s like me going up towards the lip and doing a floater and air-dropping back into the wave. It’s those little things that I’m kind of taking notes on and playing in my head. And I mean, there’s a lot of similarities. It’s just trying to get the balls to do it in waves. 

You’ve been out here heli skiing the last few days, tell me about that. 

Well, I feel very privileged, very fortunate to go up in the heli with A New Earth Project, Wes, the founder, and a bunch of our friends. To be able to be in that quality of waist deep powder, it’s almost impossible to go back to the resorts. I feel very lucky. My last two trips have been heli trips: one with Travis (Rice) in Alaska, and now here I am at Revelstoke. So I feel very fortunate and it’s been so much fun. I mean, snowboarding’s amazing. I wish I could do it more than once a year, and I’m sure I could try to pull it off, but I’m always pulled back to the big waves because it’s a similar season. 

But I’m thinking the time I go snowboarding now is maybe I go down to Chile in my summer so that I don’t worry about missing any big swells and I get more board time. But yeah, that being said, it just feels good to be back on a board and be in different terrain. There’s a lot more forests and trees here, which I haven’t experienced in the heli landscape before. It was just big spines and open faces over in Valdez.

Yeah, It’s a different style of riding for sure.

Yeah, a little different scene. But like I said, I’m pinching myself because it’s every kid’s dream to be able to do that sort of thing. And I’m with people that are able to take me there. 

Just wanted to touch on the darker side of backcountry snowboarding: has this time in the mountains helped you learn about avalanches?

I mean, it’s always important to learn the landscape and not obviously be the one to set one off on top of your buddy. And I’m still learning, I don’t know the mountains the same way I know the ocean. The ocean is like second nature. But out here, there’s always something to learn for me. And we want to have fun and I want to do gnarlier stuff, but we got to go home too. And I mean, it doesn’t really scare me so much because I trust everyone that I’m with. I’m always trying to put myself with better people than I am in the snow.

Which I’m sure is what you did when you were getting into big waves.

Oh yeah, for sure. So I trust who I’m with and I try to learn while I can. But I know it’s serious business. Like I said, at the end of the day, a run isn’t worth taking if it means you could be in an avalanche. And I don’t know if I have the skill to properly get out of one if I was put in a position, but I think that that’s all experience and seeing the signs.

So what’s up next for you?

Flying back home to Maui on Friday, Jaws should be 40 feet, so I’m taking everything I’m inspired by. It’s going to be fresh in my mind. And I’m going to go straight into where I’m more comfortable. Not in the snow, but in the waves.


Only the best. We promise.


Join our community of contributors.