I think Kai Lenny changed big wave surfing on November 26, 2018. Sounds a bit superfluous, doesn’t it? But let’s just chew on the fact that maybe an hour before the man was doing what he was doing at Pe’ahi, the Jaws Challenge had been called off as a literal attempt to make sure nobody would die.
If you don’t want to go so far as to agree he changed big wave surfing, you have to at least consider he changed the way we’re all going to look at it from here on out.
The best big wave surfers on the planet couldn’t physically match what Jaws was offering. Most waves were a coin flip to see if a surfer could manage the drop, and the ones who did make it to the bottom couldn’t get out without paying a hefty toll. That’s not really a crazy departure from how most of big wave surfing is characterized; waves are to be survived, and the fancy stuff comes later, if at all. That often goes for tow surfing, too. Only a handful of people on the planet actually surf waves once they get bigger and taller and more powerful than your typical day out. We’ve been seeing surfers take more of a small wave stylistic approach to Jaws over the years…Lenny just did it on an entirely different level that day.
“The bigger the wave, the bigger the canvas,” Lenny says. “The bigger the lip, the higher you can go. And there’s that fine line of what is possible.”