It largely went unnoticed but last week in the Corona Open China, there was a rather high profile first-round casualty. In Heat 4 Kai Lenny paddled out to the small, lefts to surf against Nicholas Squiers, Kaito Ohashi and Giorgio Gomez. Suffice to say Lenny, the big wave surfer, stand-up paddle surfer and racer, windsurfer, kitesurfer, foil innovator and celebrity watersports dude had a bit more profile than his QS competitors.
However, having a half a million Instagram followers and a few SUP World Titles means f$%k all when you are battling to get a 5.32 to progress in the heat. Lenny, in this case, didn’t get the score and his run at the China Open was over before it began. He left with a 73rd place and a measly 250 QS points.
Now Lenny has surfed in QS events before, 11 to be precise. However, prior to this one they were all either located in Hawaii or Tahiti. So this means a whole lot more. It also wasn’t part of a sponsor’s deal, Lenny traveled to China off his own bat to compete. He also didn’t take his loss too well. The normal positive, ever-smiling Lenny was seen shouting in frustration at his inability to catch the right two-footer required.
It comes on the back of last year when Lenny signaled his intention to have a serious crack at making the CT. Whilst guesting in the booth at a CT event he told Pottz, “I wouldn’t consider doing any kind of QS campaign until I feel like my surfing is up to par with the best in the world. Who knows? Maybe I’ll never get there, but I’m gonna try as hard as I can to do it. And, you know, it’s something I had as a little kid dreaming in Hawaii. It’s the one notch, I think, I haven’t checked for me, personally, is to have that ability to be the best surfer in the water anywhere I can go.”
Now it seems Lenny is putting those words into practise. Having finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th on the Big Wave Tour Rankings in the last three years he is now serious about swapping the competitive big-wave realm for the grind on the QS. Which begs the next question; Is he good enough to actually succeed?
Well, there is no questioning his talent. Nor his desire. Also he may look at Jack Robinson who despite his hard-charging reputation managed to get to grips with the QS sausage factory and qualify for the CT this year. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it took Robinson three years of hard graft to make the grade. Plus he started at 18. Lenny is now 27. It also might be argued that Lenny has nowhere near the small wave chops that Robinson has.
So, it ain’t going to be easy. A few days after Lenny packed his bags in China, Lenny was seen careering down the face of a 50-footer at Nazare. In that environment, few can challenge him. But in two-foot lefts guys like Kaito Ohashi and Giorgio Gomez won’t be scared. Either way, it should be a fascinating watch.