Maui waterman extraordinaire Kai Lenny recently broke several world records including the first channel crossing from the Big Island to Maui on a human-powered craft. The records were broken by the six-time SUP World Champion last month when he led the first-ever statewide beach cleanup on the Hawaiian Islands – the Downwind Voyage for Change. Lenny, alongside Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and The 5 Gyres Institute, traveled more than 200 nautical miles through the Hawaiian channels transported only by various non-motorized crafts including a hydrofoil surfboard, hydrofoil kiteboard, a standup paddle hydrofoil board and a sailboat; each crossing is an average of 30- to 50-miles each.
Lenny’s record-setting voyage allowed him to shine a light on the need for beach cleanups while empowering communities to combat oceanic pollution. With the help of Alison Teal, advocate for the ocean plastic problem and Naked & Afraid alumna, the team encountered pollution head-on and learned creative ways to minimize environmental impact on oceans and coastlines.
Alongside his safety and environmental activism team, Lenny took five days to complete the voyage through the island chain. His first crossing, the Alenuiha`ha channel (roughly translated by some as “very large trough-like waves”) between the Big Island and Maui, is generally regarded by the U.S. Coast Guard as one of the most treacherous channels in the world because of strong winds and high seas; the waters are also shark infested.
For Lenny, traveling the channels also acted as training for a challenging upcoming competition season. While completing the Molokai 2 Oahu channel on the heels of the coastal cleanup finish line, Lenny broke the SUP world record by 41 minutes.
“By breaking the Molokai to Oahu record, my confidence to do it again and to continue to set new personal bests is at max capacity,” Lenny said. “I feel like the door has officially been swung open to try new things on this channel and in this sport.”
Lenny’s official voyage began March 28, when he traveled the Alenuihaha Crossing from Pololu, Big Island to the Maui Cleanup on Kite Beach on a hydrofoil surfboard (towed into the initial swells by the Red Bull Wa`a outrigger canoe team). On March 29, he traveled Maui County via hydrofoil kiteboard, first from Maui to Lanai then from Lanai to Molokai, with cleanups on both neighbor islands. Lenny continued the eco-adventure on March 30, traveling from Molokai to Oahu on a SUP hydrofoil board; and on the first of April, from Oahu to Kauai in a sailboat.
Lenny broke several records including the longest swell ever ridden; longest time spent flying on a hydrofoil; record breaking time for crossing the Ka’iwi (Molokai to Oahu channel) by “new class” craft; first channel crossing(s) by hydrofoil (Alenuihaha, Ka’iwi); first launch of a hydrofoil by canoe or traditional Hawaii wa`a; and our favorite, the first Taco Bell burrito handed off by boat to surfer.
Photo courtesy of Andy Mann/Red Bull Content Pool