How a Big-wave Photographer Caught This Epic Surf Shot of Kai Lenny

Kai Lenny paddleboard surfing in Maui
Kai Lenny paddleboard surfing in Maui Fred Pompermayer

Fred Pompmayer chases big waves around the globe. As a top surf photographer, he constantly monitors the forecast and ocean conditions to time his outings.

No matter whether big swells are breaking in California, Fiji, or Tahiti, “if the conditions come together, I’ll be there shooting,” he says.

Such was the case one January morning at Jaws on Maui’s North Shore, when he captured Kai Lenny, a standup paddleboarder and surfer, riding this 30-odd-foot swell.

“Nobody is doing what he’s doing with a standup paddleboard right now,” Pompermayer says of Lenny. “He’s basically one of the few guys who can ride in this kind of condition, on this size wave.”

To get the shot, Pompermayer was on a jet ski. Even so, the ocean made taking the photo no simple task.

“Sometimes the wave breaks far out, and sometimes the barrel will be more inside,” he says. “You have to read the water the whole time to make sure you’re in a good spot.”

He estimates that he took between 3,000 and 5,000 photos that day to get this standout.

“I’ve never experienced a day like that before. It was perfect.”