Maui Sports

Kai Lenny Wins BWT Puerto Escondido Challenge

July 31, 2017, 11:50 AM HST
* Updated July 31, 3:36 PM
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Kai Lenny of Maui claimed victory today at the 2017 Puerto Escondido Challenge in Mexico after besting a competitive field of 24 of the world’s best big wave surfers in epic 20-to-25 foot surf.

Kai Lenny (HAW) claimed victory today at the 2017 WSL BWT Puerto Escondido Challenge. Credit: © WSL / Heff

Lenny was confronted with the decision to either stay in Hawaiʻi and defend his Molokaʻi 2 ʻOahu title, (which took place yesterday, 7/30) or fly to Mexico and compete in the Big Wave event; his choice proved fortuitous and after today’s win, Lenny now leads the WSL Big Wave Tour.

The hour-long final featured Lenny along with two other Hawaii athletes, Billy Kemper (4th place) and Trevor Carlson (6th place). Kemper had the highest wave score of the event, a near-perfect 9.00 and also stormed both his Round 1 and Semifinal heats with the highest scores in each round.


Jamie Mitchell, who also calls Oahu home, placed runner up to Lenny after a dramatic exchange of rides and a commanding lead up until the final minutes of the heat.



The Puerto Escondido Challenge is the first event of the 2017 World Surf League Big Wave Tour with Lenny taking on the towering conditions to collect his first BWT victory.

Big Wave Tour Commissioner, Mike Parsons, alongside the judging panel, gave today’s event a Bronze rating, based on wave height, earning Lenny a lead in the rankings with 10,000 points.


“I remember coming here last year and being super terrified because I had never been here,” Lenny told WSL. “My goal last year was to make the Final because I missed out last time. There are so many good big wave surfers in the world that when you get called up you really feel like you have to perform and charge. My goal today was to not hold back and — when a good one came — go no matter what. It was a pleasure competing with these guys. Any one of them could have won if they got the waves and I was just grateful to get that last one in the end. It was so special. Thank you to my friends, family, and sponsors. I am super grateful right now.”

Kai Lenny (HAW) escaped out of a heavy tube at Puerto Escondido to earn his first Big Wave Tour victory. Credit: © WSL / Villela

The hour-long Final witnessed multiple lead changes as Lenny, Jamie Mitchell (AUS), Tom Lowe (GBR), Billy Kemper (HAW), Trevor Carlson (HAW) and Alex Botelho (PRT) navigated the heavy beachbreak conditions.

Mitchell charged out the gates to lock in two massive waves, but his incomplete rides only garnered low scores. Lenny took advantage of a solid set to earn a 6.33 (out of a possible 10) and gained the lead heading into the halfway mark.

Under pressure in the second position, Mitchell flew down a steep barrel for a 7.22 to surpass Lenny’s score. With 15 minutes left on the clock, Lowe and Kemper had also posted solid attempts, but still trailed behind Lenny and Mitchell. The dramatic Final continued all the way to the dying minutes of the heat. Lenny, still in second place, miraculously found the exit on a massive barrel for an excellent 8.60 and the win.

“I can’t believe it,” said Lenny. “I am so stoked. That was awesome. I knew I needed a good score because Jamie (Mitchell) got one. It was hard to get waves out there because they were just so shifty, but then the one that I had been waiting for finally came. Everyone was a little too far in or too deep. I knew that that was it. I did a slow bottom turn and then I knew I had it.”

In his fifth Big Wave event, today’s win marks Lenny’s career-best result. Lenny will now lead the rankings heading into the Northern Hemisphere season, which opens Oct, 15, 2017. Lenny will look to maintain his frontrunner position by besting his previous 9th place result in Pe’ahi and 13th in Nazaré.

Event standout Billy Kemper (HAW) will claim fourth place in this event. Earlier today, Kemper swept both his Round 1 and Semifinal heats with the highest scores in each round. Kemper’s dominating rides also collected the highest single-wave score of the event, a near-perfect 9.00. Kemper, 2016 and 2015 Pe’ahi Challenge winner, will prepare for an historic third straight event win with the 2017 Pe’ahi Challenge as an option to run this season.

2017 BWT Puerto Escondido Challenge Final Results:
1 – Kai Lenny (HAW) 23.53
2 – Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 18.64
3 – Tom Lowe (GBR) 12.23
4 – Billy Kemper (HAW) 8.50
5 – Alex Botelho (PRT)
6 – Trevor Carlson (HAW) 2.46

2017 BWT Puerto Escondido Challenge Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Billy Kemper (HAW) 16.89, Trevor Carlson (HAW) 12.27, Alex Botelho (PRT) 8.07, Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 7.94, Jimel Corzo (MEX) 7.13, Nathan Florence (HAW) 6.73
SF 2: Tom Lowe (GBR) 15.34, Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 12.54, Kai Lenny (HAW) 11.27, Nic Lamb (USA) 10.77, Oscar Moncada (MEX) 6.00, Rogercin Ramirez (MEX) 1.64

2017 BWT Puerto Escondido Challenge Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Billy Kemper (HAW) 24.17, Trevor Carlson (HAW) 17.60, Nathan Florence (HAW) 16.34, Grant Baker (ZAF) 11.53, Angelo Lozano (MEX) 8.64, Cristian Merello (CHL) 2.16
Heat 2: Jimel Corzo (MEX) 12.77, Alex Botelho (PRT) 11.74, Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 10.37, Coco Nogales (MEX) 8.07, Peter Mel (USA) 6.83, Will Skudin (USA) 3.13
Heat 3: Tom Lowe (GBR) 18.06, Kai Lenny (HAW) 16.54, Nic Lamb (USA) 13.97, Rusty Long (USA) 13.51, Pedro Calado (BRA) 10.86, Jose Ramirez (MEX) 7.77
Heat 4: Oscar Moncado (MEX) 12.66, Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 10.31, Rogercin Ramirez (MEX) 8.10, Francisco Porcella (ITA) 7.66, Damien Hobgood (USA) 6.53, João de Macedo (PRT) 5.63

2017 WSL Big Wave Tour Schedule:
Southern Hemisphere: May 1 – August 31, 2017
Puerto Escondido Challenge: Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Northern Hemisphere: October 15, 2017 – January 31, 2018
Nazaré Challenge: Nazaré, Portugal
Pe’ahi Challenge: Haiku, Hawaiʻi

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