On a beautiful day in Dana Point, Calif., with a three-foot swell, Lenny didn’t beat Connor Baxter and Danny Ching because he caught a great wave or slipped into first by missing a carnage inducing set. He won the old-fashioned way: by grinding out a hard-fought win in the flats, out-paddling both Ching and Baxter, who’ve won the last two years respectively.
“This win is definitely one of the sweetest wins ever, just because this race is so gnarly,” said Lenny, who with this win arguably became the most decorated paddler in the sport’s history. “I kind of got shaken up in the qualifier and in this race I just wanted to stick to my guns. I knew I’d never forgive myself if I lost that lead I built up.”
The Kai Lenny Buoy Turn that made the Battle of the Paddle Roar
Kai wasn’t the only male Naish athlete to make his mark. “Viking” Casper Steinfath, crossed the finish line in 4th closely behind Danny Ching (his best BOP finish ever), reminding the crowd and SUP community that he remains an upcoming & strong force to be reckoned with. Oahu’s Riggs Napoleon also paddled to impress in the Distance Race, claiming an honorable and well-fought 1st in the 12’6” class on his Naish Javelin LE.
The women also put on a big show in the Elite Race. After a slow start Annabel Anderson controlled the entire race, but despite the odds, Big Island’s Jenny Kalmbach refused to give in and came very, very close to an upset. At the end of the final lap, Jenny caught a large set from the outside on her Naish Javelin 12’6” LE, held her rail and surfed up to Annabel, with the two leading ladies hitting the beach together and starting the final lap side by side. Jenny hung onto Annabel’s tail for almost the entire final lap before a fall just 400 meters from the line lost her valuable ground. The legendary Karla Gilbert also lived up to her dark horse reputation and claimed 3rd while a strong Mariko Strickland finished a well-earned 5th also on her Naish Javelin 12’6” LE.
Sunday’s Distance Race was also a popular one for the ladies of team Naish with Karla Gilbert using her strong and steady pace to take 2nd; Jenny Kalmbach in 4th, and young, “up and coming” Fiona Wylde in a remarkable 6th.
To round out the event, two Naish teams just about filled the podium during the Elite Team Relays, with one Naish team consisting of Kai Lenny, Casper Steinfath, Jenny Kalmbach, and Kody Kerbox seizing top honors and another Naish team consisting of Riggs Napoleon, Noa Ginella, Karla Gilbert, and Toby Cracknell claiming 3rd.
This past weekend was full of impressive athleticism, amazing team camaraderie and enviable strength from Team Naish. Congratulations and huge shout outs go to all those that competed and dug deep! It was definitely a weekend to remember!
Photos courtesy of Harry Wiewel, Jason Kenworthy and Will Taylor