How to Get Into Stand-Up Paddleboarding, According to the Sport’s Wonderboy

A chat with world champion Kai Lenny

October 9, 2017 9:00 am

What you got going on next weekend? 

How about a look at the world’s “most intense stand up paddling event,” all taking place in our own backyard? (Read: Ocean Beach.) 

There’s no better chance to get acquainted with the sport than Red Bull Heavy Water’s upcoming stop in the Bay.

To help you prepare, we sat down with Kai Lenny — paddleboarding’s poster child and one of the ballsiest big-wave surfers on earth — to chat about what to expect … along with how to get in on the action yourself.

Hawaii-born Kai Lenny, 24, is an all-purpose wave rider: He surfs, kitesurfs, windboards and is a champion stand-up paddleboarder. He’s also the focus of and creative power behind a new film, Paradigm Lost

What does SUP give you that surfing doesn’t?
KL: “SUP lets me surf in any condition where there’s water — whether it be the biggest or smallest waves in the world. Even rivers or lakes are sufficient. It’s the most diverse form of surfing — it’s the Swiss Army knife of surfing.”

How do you describe the SUP workout to newbies?
KL: “The best part of SUPing is basically it is the bicycle on water. In my opinion, SUPing is a better workout than going to the gym.”

Beyond the workout, what do you love about it?
KL: “The sensation of riding a wave, the feeling of flight, and the connection to Mother Nature. You are riding a physical form of energy that very few sports can capture anywhere else. There are moments you are using every fiber in your body to make the wave.”

We live in a world where the connection to nature is under threat. How do you navigate that? 
KL: “I stay connected to the natural world by doing all these surfing disciplines. I’m able to create a truly personal relationship with the water, and it makes me feel responsible to take care of the environment around me. I think if more people are able to find a connection through surfing disciplines, they’ll want to take care of it, too.”

How have you seen the state of the environment change in Hawaii? 
KL: “The state of natural world has deteriorated, from a bleaching of the reefs from the warm water to micro-plastics that come from the main continents and the poisoning of the marine life because of it. I did an island-crossing and ocean clean-up project to help raise awareness of the issue, and my hope is that more people become aware and involved with the situation.”

What do you wish people would do differently? 
KL: “The only way for people to care about Mother Nature is for them to have a personal relationship with it. The main way this happens is if they find a passion through the water. Everything must have a personal value to it. My new film, Paradigm Lost [pictured above], taps into that concept, too — that surfing is not just one discipline but a connection to the wave and the ocean, and I see the environment as something that needs protection and love, through education and immersion.”

And Lenny’s top three destinations for SUP: 
KL:Jaws (Maui), Cloudbreak (Fiji), and Mavericks (CA). Some of the best big waves on the planet and unlike anywhere else on earth.” 

For more info on Red Bull Heavy Water, see here


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