Can you imagine a mid-face chop hop as 50, 60, 80ft of doom is squaring up behind you? Kai Lenny banks on it, if the opportunity presents itself. The mentality of feeling comfortable in that situation, and the degree of mastery, is perhaps unparalleled in the world of shredding mountains and it constantly blows minds.
“Feels like freedom”, says Kai when we ask about how those hops across the face of XXL Nazare feel. It's increasingly likely now that the tallest documented waves in the world will only be surfed at either Nazare or Jaws, with both locales hoovering up accolades at the big wave awards each year. The biggest paddle wave, though, we're convinced it's yet to be wrangled but when it is – reckon it'll be Euro-side too, just not in Portugal.
Watch live: Nazare
Post tow challenge win, we caught up with Kai to talk Jaws vs Nazare. Both very different waves, of course, but how do you prep for one and the other? What's the mentality, how does equipment differ? When was the last time he had a beer. And to see if Kai will answer the eternal question of...
Is Nazare a mushburger?
Nazare is one of the heaviest big waves in the world. It’s so powerful and what separates it from most big waves in the world is when it breaks it doesn’t slow down. Riding it is more like surviving an avalanche.
Sure, but in terms of the biggest wave in the world it's likely going be surfed at Nazare or Jaws, as an aficionado of both, how do they compare?
Both waves couldn’t be more different and they both live on the exact opposite sides of the planet. For that reason, I love them both for different experiences. Jaws is the most perfect big wave on earth where as Nazare has the potential to be the tallest wave on earth. It’s certainly the most consistent spot for big waves.
How do you prep yourself for a Jaws session vs a Nazare one?
Both the same, get in the right mind set, trust my equipment, focus on my goals and approach. Fall back on my training and rise to the occasion.
What about equipment; how does that differ?
My go to boards at Jaws are much different. My favourite paddle in gun is 9’4” and my tow board is 7kg. At Nazare, my paddle in gun is 10’4” and 10kg. The shapes are similar but adjusted to suit the differences in the waves. Nazare is more of a slope and Jaws is more hollow. A relaxed rocker at Nazare and more rocker at Jaws.
Which wave do you prefer?
Jaws, it’s my home spot.
Also, congrats on the contest win. Did you have a game plan? From the webcast you and Chumbo looked so frothed.
We had plans on plans but when it came down to launching in the morning... we just both agreed to charge it like a normal session. No holding back and just have fun. Because we love big wave surfing... we want to win everything.
How does it make you feel when people say, Kai Lenny is pushing surfing like no one else is?
It’s a huge compliment, inspires me to keep pushing myself. I have so many ideas and I can’t wait to try them when the waves get big again.
How’s it feel to chop hop 50ft Nazare?
Feels like freedom.
And you’re a forecast guy right? What about that Nazare session got you pumped up? Who did you travel with?
First thing I check when I wake up in the morning is the forecast at all my favourite big waves in the world. I was traveling with my brother Ridge Lenny and Ian Walsh who is a master at reading storms and has logged nearly all of the swells he has ridden. A major topic of conversation is what makes the wave do what it does with the the variables of swell direction, size, wind and sand distribution at Nazare.
When was the last time you had a beer? Heard some people claim surfing with a hangover is great...I’m not so sure.
I have no clue, can’t imagine it’d feel that great getting atom blasted by a 50 footer.
What’s next for Kai Lenny and what’s next for big wave surfing?
As the northern hemisphere gets closer to going dormant, I want to take full advantage of big waves where ever they appear.
Really enjoying the journey right now. I haven’t gotten Maverick's yet this season, and I’m itching to paddle into a bomb there. I’m on Maui now, waiting for Jaws to wake up and that’s where I’ll be testing my next moves.
Cover shot of Kai at Nazare by Helio Antonio