Like the storied Pied Piper, surfing's young renaissance man, Kai Lenny, is leading an unlikely wave of top talent into his latest obsession -- foil boarding. The list reads like a who's-who of modern surfing: John John Florence (who is an avid sailor with his own sailboat), Ian Walsh, Jamie O'Brien, Julian Wilson, Albee Layer, Greg Long, even Kelly Freakin' Slater.
Stab Magazine recently posted a section from Lenny's new film from Poor Boy Productions (the same guys that bring you the popular Who Is J.O.B.? YouTube series), Paradigm Lost. The post has been making the rounds on the Internet and in social media, and the reaction has been full of praise, vile and lusty responses.
In surfing, as in life, people are resistant to change and even early adopters like Layer were initially skeptical. "Foiling's one of those things that's pretty easy to hate on if you've never tried it," he said, opening the segment, only to qualify the statement later with his newfound interest in foiling.
Layer alludes to an innocent web clip posted by Lenny last year from Cloudbreak in Fiji that went viral. In the video, Lenny catches a wave on his foil, kicks out and pumps directly into a second wave. The Internet went nuts over it. And so did a ton of pro surfers, apparently.
Despite all the new blood jumping into the mix, it's still early days and Lenny is clearly at the vanguard of the movement (with a nod to foil-surfing pioneer Laird Hamilton, who was inspired by the sit-down foil board, aka the Air Chair, a toy developed in the late 1980s that's now common on lakes and rivers around the world).
Currently ranked No. 1 on the Big Wave Tour after finishing fourth at the recent Pe'ahi Challenge in grinding, 40-foot plus conditions, Lenny's adapted all of his favorite disciplines to the foil board: Propping a sail on one, using a paddle for propulsion for another, and added a kite to another. Not to mention he's already looping out of the back of waves on his foil, grabbing and corking backflips like a snowboarder off of a wedge-shaped kicker.
The scene from Paradigm Lost ends with a lonely rider hovering over azure, windswept seas, pumping and gliding, loading and unloading down force on his winged-keel shaped foil. It's an evocative image, one that delves deeply into a surfer's psyche and the mythical idea of a never- ending wave.
Perhaps the greatest attribute of the foil board, however, the one with the most possibilities for everyday surfers, is its untapped potential in junky conditions. "The worse it is, the better," says Lenny tellingly, unleashing a million daydreams of endless rides over vast oceans.
And thousands of Google searches for "foilboarding."