Kai Lenny shifts the paradigm in the water and on land
Sept. 22 was a historical night at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
To a sold-out crowd of over a thousand stoked supporters, Pride of Paia and Hawaiian Waterman Kai Lenny debuted his bio-epic documentary movie “Paradigm Shift” four years in the making. It’s a masterpiece, but more on that later.
It was a hometown crowd on the afternoon lawn fringing Yokouchi Pavilion. Slack key guitar wafted on the trade winds as Kai arrived early, flanked by his ever-supportive ‘ohana. He talked story with his friends, savoring the excitement of a life’s work condensed into an hour-long multimedia spectacle about to be premiered to the world.
Kai’s ‘ohana showed up in force: Martin and Paula Lenny, the nurturing parents that gave Kai the personal foundation of care, love and training to chase his dreams; his younger brother, Ridge, a super accomplished waterman in his own right; Victor Lopez, a mentor figure and early tow partner and water safety patrolman who coached Kai into surfing Pe’ahi at size; and Kim Ball, owner of Hi-Tech Surf Sports and lead figure in supporting all young surfing talent on Maui.
The North Shore Oahu crew flew over, too. Jamie O’Brien, world-class Pipe Master, lifestyle artist and fellow Red Bull brand ambassador, was a strong presence. He brought his best friend and fellow Pipe specialist Kalani Chapman, who is also featured in Kai’s movie. As good as Kai is at all of his disciplines, at Pipeline Kai is still learning from Jamie and Kalani.
The Maui surf crew was well represented, with all of Kai’s friends and fans streaming in from Paia, Makawao, Kihei, Hana and the West Side. Albee Layer, radical free-surfer and Pe’ahi charger, was there to see the final cut of his role in the movie, which provided the funniest one-liners. “He’s out here surfing Jaws? That kid from Sprecklesville?”
More people would have come to the showing, too, but the screening sold out at 1,200 tickets.
The first 45 minutes were dedicated to surfboard giveaways and speeches, interspersed by a small army of groms romping around to see their surf heroes up close and catch flying schwag.
Filmmaker Johnny DeCesare justifiably took center stage early on. Kai is the beloved hero of the film, but it’s the behind the scenes work of directors, videographers, production assistants, editors, accountants, marketing teams and so many more that create and deliver a documentary piece of art as stunning as “Paradigm Shift.” A labor of love four years in the making, Johnny and his whole team at Poor Boyz Productions deserved the limelight.
And then the lights dropped, the crowd cheered, and we proceeded to see one of the best ocean sports movies ever made. This is not a surf movie; it’s a waterman’s movie. Windsurfing, kitesurfing, paddling, hydrofoiling, longboarding, tow-in surfing, big wave surfing, hydrofoiling, SUP paddling… Kai loves anything in the water, and this movie captures his love, his dedication, his talent, his work ethic and the sheer beauty of a man and his friends passionate and excelling at what they do.
It’s called “Paradigm Shift,” because Kai has smashed the paradigm. Surfers have been tribal and exclusive at times, but Kai has blended all these disciplines together and created new ones. Basically, for Kai, if it’s in the ocean, he’s in. It’s a beautiful paradigm shift, and an inclusive one, that speaks every one of us who loves being in the sea.
“Paradigm Shift” applies to Kai in another way as well. Kai is an articulate, intelligent, extremely hard working and charitable person. He is an ambassador for his family, Maui, Hawaii, and any brand lucky enough to associate itself with Kai. He’s the kind of professional athlete dads want their sons to be like and their daughters to marry.
For these reasons and more, Kai will be honored by the Surfrider Foundation on Oct. 16 outside on the Ocean Lawn at the Sheraton Black Rock. In his company as Ocean Guardian honorees will be patriarch of surf culture John Severson (posthumous award), West Side environmentalist Les Potts, North Shore legend Victor Lopez and Flatbread Pizza Co.
Heavy pupus, two drinks, an awards program emceed by Malika Dudley and live music by Kanekoa will make for a special chance to honor and celebrate Maui’s Ocean Guardians.
Tickets are $99, mostly to cover costs, with proceeds being dedicated to coastal land conservation, water quality testing, legal advocacy, policy advocacy, beach cleanup equipment, scientific instruments and more. Buy tickets on eventbrite and come out to shake Kai’s hand and raise a glass to all of these people who are initiating exactly the kind of “Paradigm Shift” we need to create a better world.