Jiu-jitsu and surfing are strange bedfellows, but bedfellows they are. There’s nowhere, perhaps, that it’s more obvious than the North Shore. Back in the ’80s, Lightning Bolt even sponsored a jiu-jitsu event in Brazil. Joel Tudor, Freddy P, Kelly Slater, and many more train in BBJ, as well as a whole lot of North Shore residents. It started a long time ago, back in the ’70s.
According to BJJ Heroes, the movement started with Rolls Gracie–yes, of that family–who developed the whole sport by adding bits and pieces from other forms of training and martial arts to his daily regime. Rolls also surfed, but since jiu-jitsu took up so much of his time, he wasn’t able to truly devote himself to it. As the story goes, his cousin, Relson, borrowed his board in 1972 and never looked back. By 1988, he lived in Hawaii and was spending his days teaching jiu-jitsu and surfing.
Then Kai Borg picked it up and ran with it. Now, jiu-jitsu’s fingers are wrapped tightly throughout the surf world. He’s a third-degree black belt and one of the most respected and talented fighters in the world. And now, of course, he’s made an indelible mark on the jiu-jitsu scene on the North Shore. The Boars Nest has become a very important place to a lot of people in Hawaii, and it wouldn’t have been possible without people like Kai Borg, Dustin Barca, and Leif Robinson. “Kai Borg was one of the first guys that actually started doing jiu-jitsu,” said one of the fighters. “A lot of the lifeguards and everything started training with him. Most of the North Shore black belts; most of the guys were under him. Everybody trained with him at one point.”