A 6’4″ grom tucked deep in an Off the Wall barrel is anything but the “gentle sea” of which his name implies. Kainehe Hunt is a 14-year-old regular footer that is humble by nature, with a personality that trumps his wave-hacking stature.
As a toddler, he was given inspiration by his father, Kelley Hunt, who took 3-year-old Kainehe to Shipwreck’s on Kauai. Unknowingly, Kainehe’s dad was establishing the first taste of a life-long sanctuary as they slid down a head-high wave.
Kelley continued to make an impression on the young grom as they took surf trips to Indonesia and neighboring islands. It gave young Kainehe motivation and drive, and he’s quick to affirm his father’s teaching of fundamentals but at the same time, he acknowledges everyone who has influenced him. “Everyone says their dad, which is true, but the surfing community as a whole has given me so much advice, they’ve been a big influence,” he says.
As he grew in height in age, Kainehe also developed a respect for surfing by the poundings he received from the ocean, along with friendships gained in the lineups across Kauai.
He began to compete at 8-years-old locally, loving the rivalries against his friends. Kainehe had the ability to out paddle his friends for waves, because of long arms. That’s how he got the nickname “long”: by having such a wide wing-span.
Kainehe may be humble, but his competitive drive definitely isn’t lacking. Today, his sponsors include Volcom, Superbrand surfboards and Matunas surf wax. His motto, “you’ll be on the beach”, refers to his eagerness to win over everything. He’s compelled to push his surfing to the limits, trying to replicate the strength of Andy Irons, who he’s always looked up to.
How would you define your style of surfing, Kainehe?
I’m a power surfer, I guess. When I was little I could paddle for more waves, because I had longer arms. Now, I’m bigger, my size is really good for bigger waves, like Sunset or Pipe. It really helps me out with being confident in those conditions. The airs came later for me. I was trying to rip on waves twice my size; it looks good in competition, but it’s hard to find a wave that looks bigger than me. It was difficult getting use to my size all over again…I’ve had to rework everything because of my size. Did you take any trips over the summer?
Yea, Indonesia. It was super fun. The traveling was gnarly with an 18-month-old little brother, but my whole family went and some friends from Kauai. Each wave was like a 5 or 10 minute boat ride, so not too bad. I liked Rifles a lot. It’s usually pretty fickle but we caught it at a good time. It was so fun! What’s your favorite wave?
Usually your favorite wave is the one where you learn most of your stuff. I don’t really have a favorite wave, maybe I would say PK’s here on Kauai. Every wave in general is fun to me. It’s about making it fun for yourself.
What about wipeouts during last year’s El Nino winter? Have any crazy ones?
I would say the scariest day this past winter was a second-reef break right on my head at Pipe. I went straight down to the bottom, and got pinned. I rolled around for a bit, came up, and paddled as hard as I could to get under the next one. My long twig arms help me, I guess.
What’s it like staying at the Volcom House during the winter?
I just try to show respect, so they know I’m not some spoiled brat from home that just wants to surf and not do my part. I’ve got a lot of stories from staying there. First time being in the house, I went to sleep and was supposed to be up at 6 in the morning, but didn’t wake up until 7. I went out to the porch and sat on the couch. Some guy was just staring at me and not talking. I’m like uh-oh. Did I do something wrong? Kaimana Henry looks at me and says, ‘Are you long?’ I was so scared, because I thought I did something wrong. He literally turned out to be the nicest guy ever. Scariest moment of my life.
Didn’t Tai VanDyke give you a haircut to remember last year at the Volcom House?
Yeah, it may happen again. Tai was giving this other guy a haircut that was supposed to look like Mikey Wright’s mullet, but it looked more like a rat’s nest. Then Tai turned to me and said, ‘Long you want a mullet?’ I’m like, umm, I guess, sure. My hair was super long at that time. I told him to give me a mohawk. I didn’t realize right away, but he left my hair long in the back. So, I had a mohawk-mullet. I ran with it for a bit, but every girl I knew started to tell me to get rid of it.
How do you balance school and surfing?
I do home school. You don’t go to class but you still have the same amount of work. The kids go to high school here and sometimes get sucked up into bad things. That’s why I never wanted to go to high school. I don’t want to go to school and feel I have to dress a certain way, or be concerned about those things. I want to be unique. I want to be myself. I’m not trying to be someone I’m not.
What do you feel is the biggest takeaway from surfing?
I love being in the ocean. Any problems I have, whether injuries or family stuff, I jump in the water. It releases all the stress. You know, you catch that one wave, and you’re like ahhh that was worth all the drama. You come in a happier person every time.
Any advice for future groms?
Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, don’t get sucked up in that scene. Work hard, because when you do it gives you that drive toward what you like doing. Work hard and make money to get into contests. I’ve done roofing and whatever else to help with surfing. Do anything that will help, it will build strength for your surfing. Just try and surf your brains out until you don’t want to anymore, but keep going. Be confident and be stoked.