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Kai Lenny Reveals His ‘Trick’ to ‘Surviving Wipeouts’ in 60-Foot Waves When ‘There’s Nothing You Can Do’ (Exclusive)

"In the beginning I started off super excited for big wave season and by the end I was just happy I made it out alive," Lenny recalls of his early surf career

<p> Tony Heff/World Surf League/Getty</p>

Tony Heff/World Surf League/Getty

In case you happen to find yourself in 60-foot waves, read on!

Professional big wave surfer Kai Lenny — who at the age of 31, has arguably already solidified his name as a legend in the sport — opened up to PEOPLE about why he charges monstrous waves, plus how he survives them when his rides don't go as planned.

Lenny, a Maui native and accomplished waterman, caught his first wave when he was five years old. Since then, his "approach" to riding waves hasn't changed — though the difficulty, extremity and size of them nonetheless has.

"I think everyone's best wave of their lives are usually their first wave," Lenny tells PEOPLE. "You're chasing that feeling of that very first ride," he explains of his continued "quest" that drives his desire to surf bigger and more powerful waves at some of the world's most famous and challenging spots.

Although it may seem like it, Lenny didn't start out shredding 60-foot slabs, which he loosely equates to New York City skyscrapers that stand about six to seven stories high (with "world record-level" waves peaking at eight to 10 stories).

Related: Carissa Moore Announces She's 'Stepping Back' from Competitive Surfing After 2024 Paris Olympics

<p>Octavio Passos/Getty</p> Kai Lenny surfs in the Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge in Portugal on Dec. 31, 2021.

Octavio Passos/Getty

Kai Lenny surfs in the Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge in Portugal on Dec. 31, 2021.

"Riding big waves doesn't happen overnight," he emphasizes. "It's one of those things that takes a long time, it's a culmination... But when you're having fun, you don't realize how quickly you can end up getting there!"

Now, Lenny's a surfing staple at daunting, yet renowned spots, such as Jaws Surf Break (known as Pe'ahi in Hawaiian), and a repeat invitee at surf contests, including the prestigious Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu.

"There really aren't too many places out there I wouldn't want to ride," he says with confidence.

His statement might seem bold to your average surfer — and even World Surf League pros who don't cross over into the distinct big wave discipline of surfing. But for Lenny, it's his "faith" in his decisions and "understanding" of the ocean that makes him so sure.

"I think that's why the best big wave riders tend to be older in the sport. Some of the most legendary big wave surfers have had their greatest performances in their 40s," he says. "Without experience, you don't know what you're getting yourself into."

Related: Surfer Griffin Colapinto Had Matthew McConaughey ‘Psyching’ Him Up Before Qualifying for the 2024 Olympics

<p>Hugo Amaral/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty</p> Kai Lenny rides a wave during the Nazare Challenge in Portugal in November 2018.

Hugo Amaral/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

Kai Lenny rides a wave during the Nazare Challenge in Portugal in November 2018.

And he's not only talking about "getting yourself into" a wave! Lenny's talking about the unfortunate, yet inevitable, mishap that happens more frequently than not to surfers: wipeouts.

"It's really interesting because there are very few things in the world where you can't call for help," he says. "It's just you in that wave and everything else melts away."

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Also, the "impact zone" of a wave (or a section of the ocean where the most powerful part of the wave, the lip, is about to crash down and break) is one of the scariest — and sometimes deadliest — places a surfer can find themselves in the ocean.

"If you find yourself in the impact zone, there's that six or seven seconds where there's no one on earth that can help you in that moment and you're truly alone," he explains. "You're staring that grizzly bear straight in the eyes and there's nothing you can do about it."

Related: Surfer John John Florence Says a Kelly Slater Rematch ‘Would Be Incredible’ a Decade After the ‘Greatest Heat’

<p>Brent Bielmann/World Surf League/Getty</p> Kai Lenny after surfing at the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach in Oahu, Hawaii on Feb. 15, 2023.

Brent Bielmann/World Surf League/Getty

Kai Lenny after surfing at the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach in Oahu, Hawaii on Feb. 15, 2023.

Despite the human instinct to "fight and scratch and fight back a little bit," Lenny says "there's no defeating a power like big waves in the ocean." Believe it or not, here's what he does instead.

"The real trick to surviving these wipeouts without getting injured is to be completely relaxed," Lenny says, acknowledging that his tactic is "the exact opposite" of what you want to do in those panic-filled moments.

This is where big wave experience comes into play. "It's about really teaching yourself over the years what it takes to necessarily be calm in scary situations," he says.

With wipeout knowledge and a handle on being held down underwater (while violently thrashed, tossed and turned in life-threatening waves), Lenny allows the innovator that he is to hone in on perfecting his unique maneuvers as he glides — and flips — down the faces of waves.

"You land that first flip on a big wave... it's just the rush of adrenaline," he says, explaining why he famously doesn't simply just ride a wave the traditional way. "It's just the natural progression of doing it for so long."

Related: Surfer Caroline Marks on Combatting Fear When Facing the 'Uncertainty' of 'Mother Nature' (Exclusive)

<p>Brent Bielmann/World Surf League/Getty</p> Kai Lenny surfs in Heat 6 of the Opening Round at the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach in Oahu, Hawaii on Feb. 13, 2023.

Brent Bielmann/World Surf League/Getty

Kai Lenny surfs in Heat 6 of the Opening Round at the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach in Oahu, Hawaii on Feb. 13, 2023.

While the WSL's 2023-2024 big wave surfing season draws to a close on March 31, Lenny's impressive run will be chronicled throughout Life of Kai. Season 4 of the docuseries premieres on Feb. 23 on Red Bull TV.

"In the beginning, I started off super excited for the big wave season and by the end of the season I was just so happy I made it out alive," Lenny recalls. "Now I long for it so much because I've learned what I can survive and what I'm willing to put myself through."

With that journey in mind, it now makes sense why Lenny has kept his run as a pro big wave surfer going for nearly two decades. He concludes, "It's chasing that first wave feeling, right?"

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Read the original article on People.