Kai Borg Speaks Out
The Kauaian icon shares his wisdom from a life spent in the ocean.Read more
What I know About…
Kauai… Born and raised. I moved around when I was young so I was literally brought up on both sides of the island, which connected me to both north and west, which always butted heads back in the day. That goes pretty much for all the islands. It was like anywhere and anything – it was cliquey and territorial and tribal. For me it’s the most beautiful place in the world… but everywhere’s beautiful. I’m not stuck on Kauai like a lot of people. I was, but not anymore. I honestly love Kauai – it’s my home, it’s my roots, it’s my upbringing – but I’ve learned the world is much bigger than Kauai.
The North Shore then… I was 16 years old and me and my brother went to Oahu with Alekai Kinimaka. That was like, 28 years ago! All of a sudden you see Dane Kealoha and all these guys you grew up seeing in magazines – Marvin Foster, Michael Ho, and the Aussie guys like MR and Cheyne Horan. We were like, whoa. It was a dream for us but also scary as shit. We got brought up being pounded, you had to pay your dues. Even on Kauai, all the people we looked up to used to beat us down until we turned into men, and then we had to repeat the cycle, which was vicious and barbaric.
The North Shore now… The North Shore before was cowboy days. Now it’s brutal, barbaric, but it’s only in the water and only the waves doing it. Things are changing. The kids, this generation, they’re not violent, they’re happy, they’re stoked to go surf. They’re not out there to beat people up in the water, which was – I hate to say it – but that was our goal back in the day. It was a shitty thing, it was pathetic now that I’m older and I look back on it.
Pipe… Pipe is the Mecca. People make their whole careers surfing Pipe and all of them still surf Pipe for the same reasons – the sheer enjoyment, excitement, terror, pain and rush of it. It’s the same for everybody. Pipe does not discriminate. But it’s a young man’s wave. I look at it now and I see what these young men are doing, they’ve seen the evolution of the place, and it’s monkey see, monkey do. And if you think John John’s pretty good wait till you see the next ones. But Pipe will humble you. It humbles every single person out there. Every single Pipe guy has been through the wringer and back, even the young ones. Look at John John, he broke his back out there.
Power… My Ju Jitsu World Title was good, it’s like anything you put so much work and sweat and everything into, you accomplish it and it’s great. But you get there and it’s gone. It’s behind you already. Don’t hang onto it. It’s not what you did in life, it’s what you’re doing. But this is where I’m at now; if you’d asked me 10 years ago I’d still be claiming my world title, but now it’s nothing to me. It was great at the time, but I’m in a new time now. Starting Ju Jitsu as a kid actually quietened me down to be honest. Once I started learning the art, you learn it’s not about power; it’s about respect. You’ve got to show respect, no matter where you go.
“There’s no enlightenment without suffering, and I had to suffer alot before I could get to where I am today.”
Lessons… I’ve learned a lot in the last three years. It’s a process, you go through it, and you’re up and down, constantly learning. For a while there I wasn’t evolving and learning at all. I was going backwards in life, and that had a lot to do with pride and being blind to everything going on around me. Pride will blind you. When you actually find a little humility in life it allows you to see the mistakes you’re making and make corrections and move forward. Even if it’s a little every day, it’s progress. Stay humble in life, because pride’s a killer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still full of it… but at least now I keep it in check.
Low… I bottomed out. I bottomed out as hard as any human bottomed out. I had the life, the family, had it all, and I was spiralling down out of control and I could not figure out why. I should have been happy but I wasn’t. Later on I learned that it’s not people, places and things that make you happy. Happiness comes from you. If you come to Fiji and you’re all depressed and messed up, Fiji’s not going to cure you. Only you can do it and only you can walk it. You have to learn it, and what I learned was that my way didn’t work. What I also found out was, that shit I was taking don’t discriminate. It doesn’t care how famous or rich or poor you are, when you’re caught in it, you’re caught. But, you know, now I’m almost grateful for it because I’d never be where I am now if those pills never got a hold of me. I’d be taking everything for granted and believing all the bullshit. Now I’m free, brah. Free. There’s no enlightenment without suffering, and I had to suffer a lot before I could get to where I am today.
Sobriety… In the beginning it was hard because our whole life is beers and drinks and parties and you associate all that with happiness. Four or five years ago I’d be in that bar over there raging with everybody. Now I don’t go near it. A drink of water and a soda and that’s it. The only vice I got now is coffee. And with sobriety comes clarity. It’s not for everybody. Sobriety is not for people who need it – because a lot of people need it – it’s for the people who want it. It’s change and change is hard. You go through life clearing your side of the street, get those gorillas off your back, get some clarity and accountability, apologise to the people you’ve wronged, and you’ll be surprised what can happen.
Surrender… The starting point is looking in the mirror and being happy with who you see. I couldn’t look in the mirror for a few years there. I didn’t like what I saw and I couldn’t do anything about it. And it just comes down to surrendering. Waving that flag and saying you need help, that you can’t do this on your own, and what a lot of people don’t realise is that when you actually surrender, no matter how strong or proud or tough you think you are, when you surrender you actually empower yourself to become stronger. I had friends who helped me too. They teach you how to walk through life without carrying baggage. We all have demons. I don’t care how perfect someone claims to be they’ve got some darkness buried in there. But you’ve just got to be honest and you’ll be free. And with that comes accountability, compassion and humility.
Physical… Physical and mental wellbeing go hand in hand. You don’t see 225 kg gurus around. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and I’m 141 kilos and I’m thinking, this is not happening! I had to hold my breath to tie my shoelaces. For me it went hand in hand – clarity, working out, surfing. I just got on the program. And honestly it wasn’t even hard once I started. I got my passion back and I’m at it every day now.
Surfing… I think I’m surfing the best I ever have because I have the passion to surf again, which I’d lost. Suddenly you’re out in the water and it’s perfect and you don’t want to even be out there. It’s unbelievable the shit we can take for granted. I surfed three times yesterday, loving it. If you lose your passions you’ll become old and angry real quick, and I don’t want to be that person.
Friends… I’m friends with everybody, but I don’t hang around with anybody. You are who you hang out with. You show me someone’s friends and I’ll tell you who that person is. I’ll hang out with you if you’re into training and surfing all day long and you’re into sobriety, but if you think you’re gonna jump in my car and smoke a joint and go surf, it ain’t gonna happen. I’m not judging anybody, but I’m going to stick to my kind.
Big Fiji… I never seen nothing like that day. For me personally that day was a sign that I was back. If I had of kept going the way I was going I would never have see that day. But that was the day of days in my life. Pipeline you see the same thing over and over all day, and honestly you get desensitised to it. But out at Cloudbreak on the big day showed you there’s a lot more going on on this planet than you think. It was truly humbling. I had the best seat and the most responsibility, front row and on my toes pulling guys out of trouble. That was history there in front of you.