Skip to main content

Surfer uses custom hydrofoil surfboard to cross Hawaii’s most dangerous waters

Kai Lenny Hydrofoil Surfing
Hawaiian big-wave surfer and all-around water athlete extraordinaire Kai Lenny pulled off an unprecedented feat this month, riding an impressive 50 miles on his unique hydrofoil surfboard. Lenny traversed a channel referred to as the Alenuihaha — a crossing which connects Hawaii’s Big Island to the island of Maui — regarded as one of the most dangerous stretches of open water on the planet. While the achievement itself is impressive, Lenny didn’t do it simply for fun but rather to kick off a massive statewide cleaning of each Hawaiian island.

Like hydrofoils found on boats — which lift the hull off the water to increase speed — Lenny’s surfboard hydrofoil props him a few feet above the ocean, almost giving off the appearance he’s riding a Back to the Future II-style hoverboard. Though the distance between the Big Island and Maui (along the Alenuihaha channel) registers at just 30 miles, the total distance covered accounts for Lenny’s actual trajectory which didn’t end up being a straight point-to-point journey.

Related Videos

“The longest hydrofoil downwinder I’ve done so far, with the longest swells I’ve ridden so far,” said Lenny via an Instagram post. “50 miles on the foil during my crossing of the Alenuihaha (Hawaii island to Maui).”

To get started on the course, Lenny received a small slingshot headstart from a group of Red Bull-affiliated rowers before embarking along the channel. As mentioned above, he completed the triumphant tour to satisfy the larger endeavor of cleaning up the Hawaiian islands. An effort he’s started with the help of Red Bull, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, Surfrider, the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, and 5Gyres, Lenny not only plans to help clean but intends to travel between islands via his hydrofoil board.

Lenny documented his remarkable trek on his Instagram account, which is where the famous surfer figures to likely publish updates on future rides and cleaning efforts.

Editors' Recommendations

Surfboard dubbed ‘The Roach Tail’ is made from 10,000 cigarette butts
the roach tail roachtail1

When you think of cleaning up the ocean, you might imagine large-scale beach gatherings where trash is picked up and removed, rather than reused. Santa Cruz based surfer Taylor Lane had a bigger idea in mind when he constructed "The Roach Tail" — a surfboard made from 10,000 cigarette butts collected from the California coastline. His creation brought to light an important environmental concern and earned him 1st place in the Vissla and Surfrider Creators & Innovators Upcycle Contest. 

Taylor's idea sprung from participation in a beach cleanup in Northern California, during which he realized cigarettes are the most common form of ocean pollution. After 200 hours of labor, many setbacks, and multiple failures, he successfully constructed The Roach Tail and entered his masterpiece into the Vissla Upcycle Contest, hosted by surfbrand Vissla and the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation.

Read more
Heavy water doesn’t bother hydrofoil surfboard innovator Kai Lenny
kai lenny interview

At just 25 years old, Hawaiian big wave surfer -- and hydrofoil surfboard innovator -- Kai Lenny is as accomplished as any of his peers. After gaining fame in 2012 by nabbing first-place finishes in two high-profile stand-up paddle board competitions, Lenny outdid himself the following year, again winning multiple SUP championships while also adding "kiteboarding world champion" to his profile.

These days, Lenny's stock is as high as ever. This year alone, the young surfer released a jaw-dropping surf flick titled Paradigm Lost and spent much of his spare time raising environmental awareness and participating in the cleanup of Hawaii's precious islands; something he helped kick off from -- where else -- atop a hydrofoil surfboard. As he uses his platform to make a positive impact on the environment, Lenny still finds time to compete at the highest level.

Read more
The Highline Airlift vest sets a new safety standard for big wave surfers
highline airlift surfvest3

For big wave surfers, dealing with volatile ocean conditions has always been part of the sport. While inflatable surfing vests have been on the market for years, they have not been made readily available to the masses. Surf brand giant Quicksilver has teamed with scuba diving gear manufacturer Aqua Lung to produce the Highline Airlift vest — the first inflatable surf vest to be accessible to the general public — raising margins of safety for big wave surfers around the globe. 

Patagonia's PSI vest was greeted enthusiastically back in 2013 but requires buyers to provide proof of big wave training certification. The Highline Airlift vest is the product of a two-year accumulation of research and collaboration between engineers and big wave riders. The product's streamlined design ensures the vest can be worn anywhere, anytime regardless of wave conditions or water temperature.

Read more