Lenny’s Close Call Caps Amazing Year

It is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, and

Maui’s Kai Lenny is without question on top of the world.

Lenny captured his third Stand Up Paddling Surfing World Title in November by winning the Le Torche Pro in France, just weeks after winning the Stand Up Paddle Racing Series World Title at Turtle Bay on Oahu’s North Shore.


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Kai Lenny at Jaws on Maui | Photos courtesy Richard Hallman

“I’ve had the best year of my entire life,” says the 21-year-old Lenny. “I’m already looking forward to 2014.”

To say Lenny relies on his highly skilled feet to make a living is a major understatement. So when Lenny recently found himself in a helicopter being flown to the emergency room with a nasty foot injury, you can understand why everyone in the SUP world took an uncomfortable deep breath.

“I’ve been taught by some of the best big-wave riders and rescuers in the world, like Brian Keaulana and Shane Dorian, to be prepared for the unexpected,” says Lenny. “Thank God I remembered what I learned.”

Lenny was with a group of big-wave riders, including Jamie Mitchell and Connor Baxter, filming a movie at world-famous Pe’ahi (Jaws), when he suffered a horrible injury after wiping out on a 20-foot wave.

“I just saw this wave come in, and I knew it was going to be gnarly,” he recalls. “I air-dropped into the wave and landed on a bump on the wave because the winds were so strong, easily 40 mph. I hit one of those ribs (in the wave) and got launched forward. The power of the ocean pulled my leash down and buried my (board’s) nose, and I was tumbling in the ocean.”

Lenny says while he was being thrashed around underwater, the fin on his board ripped a huge gash on his right foot. When he finally surfaced and looked down, he knew it was bad.

“I saw my foot was crushed, and said to myself, ‘Oh, wow, my foot is in half!'” recalls Lenny. “I waved over the Jet Ski and knew I had to get to a hospital fast! Jaws is such an intense and powerful wave and we always take the proper precautions. I was lucky to be with some of the best water athletes in the world.”

Lenny also was lucky the helicopter pilot spotted him in the pounding surf. The skilled pilot swooped down to Lenny’s position in the ocean, and he literally stepped into the hovering chopper.

“I wasn’t in any life-threatening position, but I got to the hospital in 40 minutes,” says Lenny. “The wave I fell on held me down for so long. The helicopter pilot said I was probably under for 40 seconds, and when you’re getting eaten up underwater, that’s a long time! It’s amazing to be reminded of the power of the ocean, even if it’s not the gnarliest wave I’ve ever been on.”

Lenny required 27 stitches to mend the gash. Despite his foot being split open, the fin amazingly missed ligaments, tendons and nerves. He’s expected to be out at least another month, more than enough time to prepare for the season-opening event at Sunset Beach in February.

The injury has reminded him how fragile life can be and how important it is to pause and take a step back.

“I’m bummed I’m not able to surf, but I’ve been pushing myself as hard as I could the whole year to make the most of it,” says Lenny. “Someone or something reminded me to take it easy. I’ve been so determined to become a better surfer and better athlete. Being injured makes me take a breath. I’m very fortunate and very blessed. It could’ve been worse.”