ON A WAVE: After spending summer at home in Mollymook, Kai Bates is about to head off on his second world stand up paddle surfing tour and is currently ranked 15th in the world.Mollymook’s Kai Bates will embark on his second world stand up paddle (SUP) surfing tour this year, with his first stop Sunset Beach, Hawaii.
Currently ranked 15th in the world, Kai will head off in search of the big waves in Feburary, with the Waterman League World Championships also set to take him to beaches in Brazil, Chile, Tahiti, the United States, France and Morocco.
Spending summer at home on the south coast meant Kai had a chance to take part in the annual Merimbula Classic SUP surfing competition in November where he took out the open men’s division.
The event was attended by more than 200 national and international windsurfers, kitesurfers and SUP surfers.
Starting out as a short board surfer, Kai discovered his passion for SUP when he won a paddle board in the Merimbula competition seven years ago.
“I thought I’d have go and really liked it,” he said.
“That’s where it all started and it’s just taken off from there.
“I’ve been competing seriously for about four years and have taken the podium in the NSW and Australian Titles qualifying me to compete at an international level.”
Kai was born in Milton and has grown up on the beach.
He admits he is now “living the dream” by spending his time surfing, travelling the world, meeting surf legends and making movies.
“When I hear my friends and family humorously call me Kai ‘living the dream’ Bates I do feel a little out of sorts, although after the reflection of my past 12 months it is quite fitting as I have taken a dream of mine, and possibly many others, and been able to live it.”
Over the past year, he has surfed in Hawaii, Brazil, California, Abu Dhabi, France and Morocco.
During the tour he was ranked ninth in the world, but by the end of the year dropped back to a credible 15th position.
Kai said he prefered big waves, but said SUP surfing can be fun and challenging on any sized wave.
“It’s just like short board surfing where you are judged and given points on your style and performance.
“The big waves are great as you get more power and can get into the waves earlier.”
While SUP competitors are familiar with sand between their toes, it was a unique experience when they were taken to a fresh water wave pool in the middle of the desert during the Abu Dhabi leg of the 2014 tour.
“It was surreal surfing in the middle of the desert,” Kai said.
“It was pretty hard and something I have never experienced before.
“Waves just popped out from a wall and it really challenged everyone.”
One of the competition highlights for Kai was winning a heat in California against four times world champion Kai Lenny, a surfer that has inspired him.
“It was amazing,” he said.
Kai has spent the Christmas break at home in Mollymook with his mum Cheryl Prout and step father Jason Cater and has been working in a surf shop and as a paid lifeguard on local beaches.
He is looking forward to heading off again and hopes to improve on his standing in the world rankings.
“I’m really happy with the results after my first year on the world circuit, but hope to improve.
“It’s been a huge year filled with new people, travel, new places and many new experiences.”
He said the sport was becoming more popular in Australia and around the world, with bigger prize money on offer each year.
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