How I met a young Kai Lenny
First steps of a raising sports star
July 2009. I got a call from a friend of mine. He was guiding a visiting windsurfer called Kai, who came from the island of Maui for the two windsurfing world championship stops being held in the Canary Islands that summer. Kai was barely 16 years old, and came along with a friend from Hawaii. We talked about meeting the next day and surf the Siam Park, one of the best wave pools on the planet in the early 00s.
Kai showed up with a whole set of floating devices that went from a regular surfboard to an alaia, passing by the Stand Up Paddle boards. SUP was at a very early stage by then so it didn't have a bad reputation in most peaks yet (it actually lacked of a reputation at all). My friend, a former windsurfer, had embraced SUP as well so they both had quite a few things in common. Call him a visionary, but my friend saw a huge potential in Kai and presented him as a future world champion, maybe not in windsurfing, which was kind of his priority by then, but maybe in something else?
3 years later Kai became SUP's first world champion, and that was the beginning of a successful career as one of the world's newest and most promising watermen. We can say he redefined what a waterman is, and silenced many who criticized him for being a SUPer first. He's currently more and more into big wave surfing, doing things never seen before and taking the sport to greater levels.
I never got to talk with Kai again. He became a massive sports star and stopped following the windsurfing world tour, so as far as I am concerned, he never came back to the Canaries. Last year I met him again in Nazaré while I was covering a big session for Surfer magazine. I had the chance to interview him for an upcoming short documentary and it felt really good that he remembered me, the Siam Park and that dip we had with the whales 10 years later!
Footnotes: Thanks to Edu from Second Reef for making me part of this amazing opportunity.