The trades are blowing between 15 and 20 knots. The waves are averaging a dozen feet high. In other words, conditions are great for this year’s Aloha Classic windsurfing competition at Ho’okipa Beach.
There are a lot of big names this year—Alex Aguera, Mark Angulo, Rush Randle, Josh Stone—but the best guys to watch are Maui’s own Connor Baxter and Kai Lenny.
Baxter, 11, and Lenny, 13, are good friends on and off the water. They were the stars of last year’s competition, with Lenny winning the Junior Division. Turning pro and becoming world champion is their dream, and they’re back at Ho’okipa this year.
“I just love it,” says Baxter, who started windsurfing when he was eight. “My parents introduced me to windsurfing because they are both windsurfers and their business is windsurfing. I wanted to learn to windsurf because I loved being on the front of the board sailing with the big guys. My dad and Svein Rasmussen, owner of Starboards, would take me when I was only five years old and sail with me on the front of the sailboard. I would have a blast.
“I have sailed on 15-foot faces—over mast-high waves,” says Baxter the way another kid would tell you their highest computer game score. “The strongest winds I have sailed in were 35 knots. The scariest moment would probably be when I was heading out in big surf and all of a sudden there was no wind and I fell and a humongous wave hit me. I dove down and let the rig go. It’s scary to lose your rig at Ho’okipa. You have to swim a long way and there is strong current and rocks.”
Lenny is Maui’s youngest waterman. His skills on the water have surprised even Hawai’i’s water sports legends. He’s proficient in all water sports—in fact, he competes with adults in World Class competition. Like Baxter, his parents are avid windsurfers who get him to push his limits every time he gets on the water.
But the most impressive thing is to see when he gets out of the ocean is his smile. He started sailing when he was six. Two years later, after seeing Robbie Naish sail, he was hooked.E E
Lenny laughs when I ask him about his funniest moment on the water so far. “Watching my friend jump his board when he crashed really bad,” he says. “He rag-dolled across the sky.”