Senior Editor

Photo Courtesy of Red Bull

The Inertia

In a little shack behind his house, Kai Lenny keeps every sort of toy imaginable for riding any kind of water: kite boards, surfboards, SUPs, windsurf setups, there might have even been a snowboard buried back in the corner somewhere. But my gaze was too captivated by all the other colorful toys filling his well-organized mini-garage.

Kai’s athletic prowess is well-documented. But his earnestness isn’t. The guy is just cool. Easy to be around, and he cares for others. I was writing a profile on him a few years back and got to hang with him and his family. He legitimately loves being around them. Loves helping the kids in Paia, where he grew up, and embraces his role as the next mainstream, waterman hero. With little pretense. He doesn’t really operate like a burnt-out, cynical surfer (check out his recent slogging away on the QS tour as an example).

And that speaks to why he’s fully embraced his latest project: a state-wide coastal cleanup of Hawaii spurred on by his “downwind challenge.” Basically, Kai is using all those tools in his garage to cross as many channels as he can in the Hawaiian islands, cleaning up the coastlines with local communities as he goes. “I just did the channels from Maui to Lanai and Lanai to Molokai today on my kite,” he texted me. “Tomorrow is M2O (Molokai) on my Hydrofoil!”

This of course comes after his monumental crossing of the channel between the Big Island and Maui on his shortboard and foil earlier this week. He hasn’t had one iota of help from any kind of motorized device. He’s hit every island but Oahu and Kauai, which are on the docket.

Kai is working with his sponsor Red Bull, alongside Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and The 5 Gyres Institute to identify the plastic and garbage problem with different researchers and doing beach cleanups as he goes. The word is that Red Bull will release footage from the project on April 18.


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