Kai Lenny’s got a bit of an affair going on with Jaws. It’s been a place close to his heart for a long time. “My relationship with Peah’i, a.k.a. Jaws, is really personal,” he said. “I grew up watching the place. Some of my earliest memories of watching big wave surfing are of this spot. I’ve always felt like I had a special connection since I’ve spent so much time focusing on it; trying to watch it and ride every single condition that it has to offer on all sorts of different crafts. It’s really special when I’m given an incredible ride and I’m able to kick out and have a memory that’ll last a lifetime.”
He’s been on the board more than a handful of times for the WSL’s Ride of the Year award, and this year was no different. In the days leading up to the day that landed him his most current nomination, the forecast was intimidating, to say the least. “In the days before, the forecast looked really big,” he remembered. “But all the focus was on two days earlier, which was that glassy perfect Jaws day. The next day, when I actually got this Ride of the Year nomination, it wasn’t even on my mind. I think that’s what made this wave even more special. There were zero expectations. I wasn’t going out there thinking ‘I need to catch the best wave I’ve ever ridden.'”
The day began like most other big Jaws days: full of a strange mixture of nervousness and excitement. Also like any other big day at Jaws, Lenny was hunting barrels. It was a hard one, though — the wind was creating a lot of bumps on the face, which made predicting what the wave was going to do extremely difficult. “There was a certain point where I just had to let the arrow fly,” he said. “I’m going to go deep and pull into these barrels, and whatever happens happens.”
That’s when a huge wave reared its head. It was a little more west than the rest, and it was far larger than the others. “I felt like it was sort of the beginning of what the real swell was going to be like,” he explained. “I remember getting towed onto this wave and just sort of relaxing. It was a really big wave and the wall was stretching out to the point where I couldn’t even see the coast. That horseshoe bend is so intimidating but so exciting as well because that just means it’s going to produce the biggest widest barrel possible.”
Like all good things, though, it didn’t come easy. Lenny thought he wasn’t deep enough, so he did quick snap to burn off some speed. That’s when the first bit of doubt trickled in. “I thought, ‘oh my god, what have I done,'” he laughed. “This thing had so much energy. It felt like it was just going to fold right over me. Had I fallen, I would have been held down for two waves at least.”
But, since Kai Lenny is no stranger to danger and he’s willing to pay the price to get himself in the right spot, he was rewarded with what he called “the tallest and widest barrel he’s ever been in at Jaws.” And that’s saying something, because he’s been in a lot of Jaws barrels.